The top priority by far in our Community Consultation was a Community Hub for Thurso. The Caithness & Sutherland Local Area Plan which our community contributed towards in the Thurso Charrettes of 2014 also identified this as a priority. Ongoing consultation via Aspiring Communities funding and the work of the Thurso Development Officer identify a clear priority for a Community Hub in Thurso. We are experiencing mounting levels of social isolation, issues surrounding mental wellness and a lack of community facilities, activities and services. Within the Thurso Charrettes and in ongoing searching of a suitable space the building which keeps coming up is the Drill Hall.
Another option could exist at the Bank Road Tennis Courts, also identified as a possibility in the Caithness & Sutherland Local Area Plan however, this would require a new build. Funding sources are not as large as they used to be and there are less funding sources available for a new build. The Drill Hall due to its historic listing would attract more funding streams. Also, if it is not used by the community given the mounting evidence of depopulation to our area, who is going to make the economic investment to preserve a building like this in our town centre?
The Drill Hall represents a building which already has a large hall, 250 square meters. It has a historic presence in the town and is widely accepted that community use would be the best means of securing its future. However, this will require a huge amount of work, enthusiasm, support and funding!
We are currently speaking to architects and other people who can help with the all important surveys, feasibility studies and community consultation. Because when it comes to it we will come back and ask our wonderful Thurso community what you would like to see in the building, we are attempting to create a community hub for us all. We have spoken to The National Lottery and based on the information supplied so far have been invited to submit a Stage One Application to the Scottish Land Fund. This Stage One funding will help pay for all of these surveys, create a business plan and for us to work out what and how the building should be. It will also do the important work of looking at the building structurally to ensure that it is fit for the purpose we would like.
If successful in gaining this funding and then doing all the work and if we can prove that the building and our plans are feasible we will move onto a Stage Two application which will enable us to purchase the building. At the same time we will commence the process of sourcing the funding to restore and make the building fit for use.
Our plans to investigate feasibility for the Drill Hall had gone on hold throughout late 2018 and early 2019 as we were acutely aware that Caithness Horizons was experiencing difficulties. While there may have been the chance that building remained closed and vacant we were aware no funding sources would look at us to consider feasibility of the Drill Hall. Now the future of Caithness Horizons is secured with Highlife Highland providing the management of the Museum and Art Gallery we will now begin forging ahead with plans so expect to hear more about this project very soon.