Graham Marsden opened up the meeting by explaining that within 12-18 months the Links School would be redundant with the new hospital completed and that a number of the 27 groups that use the building would have moved up to the new facility. The process of the community taking ownership of the Links School would be long and arduous and it would be necessary to get started as soon as possible. He pointed out that there was no immediate threat. NHS were responsible for maintenance in the short term but their lease would run out in Jan/Feb and decisions would have to be made over the next 6-9 months.
There was some discussion of the specifics of the lease/ownership situation and the best way forward for the community as regards the two issues. A representative from NHS Highland pointed out that they had made a significant investment of £25,000 in the building over the past 3 years. It seems that NHS Highland would consider still using the building after their lease expires but are very wary of incurring maintenance costs.
The meeting then moved onto to hear other contributions from the floor that really outlined the deep emotional link that many in the community has with this building. It was outlined by users how the building was a far more friendlier environment than either the hospital or the community centre, it was more a space were you could feel at home: you couldn’t put posters up on the wall at the community centre for example and it was very costly. Personal testimony was given of how the Links School was helpful to sufferers of post-natal depression. One woman told the meeting that she wouldn’t have been here today if she hadn’t had the help available from the building.
From the floor the very valid point that the Council might make some money from the sale of the building but what about the cost to society from those who would suffer the consequences of its closure in terms of ill health etc.
It was a powerful emotional event and a committee has been formed to explore ways to bring the building into community ownership. One of the first things the committee will do is to find out who quoted the price of £100,000 to fix the roof and see whether that is indeed the correct price, the committee is also mandated by the meeting to apply for a £15,000 ‘Invest in ideas’ grant that is available up until the end of March.
These meeting was indeed very positive and a remarkable contrast to the very stormy previous meeting on this topic held two or was it three years ago. It looks like the Links School might survive after all. Also in attendance for the Highland Council was Sandy Park.
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