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November 24, 2010

Castle falls into community hands

In days gone by, the main purpose of a castle would be to offer some protection to the local community from marauding enemy forces.  Over the centuries, Banff Castle has seen its fair share of ‘action’ and not much of the original 12th century building remains. However, the Castle’s value to the local community has remained undiminished – so much so that the community now own it.  Banff Castle Community Association have big plans for it

John Thomson

A £200,000 scheme to help regenerate a community buildings complex in a north-east town centre is expected to get under way in the new year.

The ambitious plans at Banff Castle will include the creation of an arts and folklore centre, a cafe and a hidden garden.

Supporters believe the proposed developments will help secure the long-term future of the property for community use.

They are celebrating an award this month of almost £95,000 which will go a long way towards paying for the work.

The money has come from the rural Aberdeenshire Leader fund which aims to support locally-driven projects.

Banff Castle is run by a community association and property convener Julian Watson said: “This funding is a tremendous boost and when we add it to money we already have, it means we are about £55,000 short of target.

“We are looking at other grant providers and hope to have building warrants sorted by Christmas so we can then put the work out to tender.”

The castle raises money from room rentals and fundraising events and is used by various local organisations.

The main building provides administrative offices for Banff and Macduff Community Trust and Banffshire Coast Tourism Partnership.

Talking newspapers for the visually impaired are also based at the building and the local art club is among long-standing users of the building.

The proposed cafe will be on the ground floor of the west pavilion, which was formerly a stable, and will have access to a walled, hidden garden.

A folklore base for workshops and exhibitions will be created in the first floor of the pavilion.

Other work planned includes rebuilding a flanking wall at the west pavilion and the formation of a car park.

Castle co-ordinator Jay Wilson said: “The aim is to upgrade all the facilities and link them together.

“The ultimate ambition is to maintain a community facility which is affordable and can be used by generations to come.