Asset transfer proposal

PRELIMINARY discussions have been held to see if a locally-run trust might be in a position to take over the running of some of Laurencekirk’s council-owned assets.

Local solicitor and Villages in Control secretary Norman Banski is one member of a steering group of four set up to represent the community and take the issue forward.

Mr Banski said: “We are looking to see how the vacum could be filled if the council seeks to withdraw from the provision of certain services or facilities.

“The idea of an asset transfer, whereby a local trust takes over certain facilities from the council, has been put forward.

“We are looking at the community centre, the Burgh Buildings and the St Laurence Hall.”

The other steering group members are David Nelson (community council chair), Ed Murray and Rev Ronnie Gall.

“We now have to draw up a business plan to take to the council.

“Our initial brief is to look at all three facilities, but the least likely to move forward may be the St Laurence Hall because of its size and the amount of work that needs to be done.”

At the moment other Laurencekirk assets such as the Memorial Park and Kinnear Square (common land but council maintained) are not included in the discussions.

“Before local government reorganisation in 1975, all the Laurencekirk assets were profitable. The town council and the various joint boards which ran them made sure they were well managed.

“We hope it would just be a case of a trust taking the facilities off the council’s hands and running them, but if there were financial transactions involved, there is funding available through Holyrood to assist.”

At the moment the charges imposed by the council for the St Laurence Hall are prohibitive, but Mr Banski says a new trust would bring in a more realistic fee structure to encourage use.

“At the moment there are doubts as to whether the community facilities in the new school will be big enough to accommodate everything. There could well be continued demand elsewhere, especially during school hours.

“The people of Laurencekirk will use facilites which are accessible. Many would drive out to the new school which would cause parking issues.

“The community centre is very busy. We feel that many groups would elect to continue to use it if it remained available.

“There is a VIC meeting next week at which this will be discussed further, but were are starting from the position that the council wants the burden of running these facilities taken away.

“I have no doubt that a locally-managed trust would run these facilities as well or better than the council. You only need to look at our neighbouring villages of Luthermuir, Fettercairn and Auchenblae to see what can be done, well run halls and lovely parks, so why should Laurencekirk be different.

“We must get our business plan and projections in place and I think this is something that can draw the community together.”