TWO COMMUNITY groups received good news this week as councillors agreed full community asset transfers at a meeting on Tuesday.

In Turriff, the Turriff and District Heritage Society (TDHS) were granted their application to take over the former Municipal Buildings in the town centre.

Meanwhile in Ellon, the Ellon Castle Garden Group were supported in their application to take over Deer Park in the centre of Ellon.

In reports presented to councillors at the latest meeting of Formartine Area Committee on Tuesday, TDHS completed the second stage application for the transfer of the Municipal Buildings.

Officers praised the group, who having been formed as a charity back in 1978, were during the process of the stage two application, informed of new legislation changes regarding the charitable status of groups applying for asset transfers.

As a result, in January, TDHS were able to become a Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation (SCIO) which was a required prerequisite.

This was also noted by local councillor Anne Robertson in the supporting evidence presented which only included financial details up to 2015, but officers confirmed that all the services involved had been satisfied and that no further scrutiny was needed.

Discussion from councillors Paul Johnston and Sandy Duncan raised the issue of what protections were in place to stop potential situations arising where groups gained control of an asset and then either disbanded, went bust or tried to then sell on an asset for financial gain.

Officers explained that if an SCIO closed for whatever reason, the charity regulator would hold it in trust until such time as it was considered appropriate and that it would look at similar applicants to stop it ending up in commercial disposal.

TDHS chairman Judith Mackie said: “Turriff and District Heritage Society are delighted that the Council have agreed the transfer of the Municipal Buildings in Turriff.

“It means that this historic landmark building in the heart of the town can once more become a central part of the life of the community.

“TDHS has been in existence for nearly 40 years and due to the generosity of donations of artefacts from the local community, had long outgrown their rented premises in the Auld Post Office Museum.

“Housing a museum and heritage centre in the Municipal Buildings is a great opportunity but it couldn’t be achieved without purchasing the building because there is a lot of renovation work to be done and a major funding programme will need to get underway to restore the Grade C listed building to its former glory, as it was when Provost Hutcheon gave it to the people of Turriff in 1909.

“But the great news is that it is now back in the hands of the people, thanks to the hard work and vision of the Turriff and District Heritage Society, whose mission to ‘preserve the past for the future’ not only applies to local artefacts but to this historic building.” (QUOTE BOX PLEASE)

“We have been able to bring several important local artefacts back to their place of origin,” Judith added, “including the Council table and chairs and the picture of Provost Hutcheon. “I swear he’s smiling as he looks down on us in the room it was originally commissioned for.”

The Heritage Society will be opening the museum/heritage centre for the first time on MayDay with a sample of the collection that has been curated for the past four decades by founder member Dorothy Smith.

It is hoped by TDHS that the community will come and offer their support and ideas so that this truly becomes a people’s museum.

Many others have played a part in achieving this great outcome.

Judith explained: “It’s been a lot of hard work over the past six months and we weren’t sure till today whether it would pay off, so the displays are far from finished but the public will be able to come in and see the potential for the future.

“We are really keen for community involvement as we develop the space into one which will be a source of pride for the local community and a tourist destination for years to come.”

There was unanimous support for the transfer of Deer Park in Ellon to the Ellon Castle Garden Group who were praised for their work in bringing the plans forward for the site and in the level of background work which had been done to date.

Councillor Rob Merson said: “The Castle grounds as it turns out are as horticulturally and historically important as those at Pitmedden Gardens and if we can bring even a proportion of visitors to Ellon of similar numbers this will have a very positive effect for the town.

“The team behind this are very professional and this is to be welcomed as an asset to Ellon.”