Laurencekirk artisan centre gathers support

A mock-up of what the building could look like

A mock-up of what the building could look like

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An idea to transform the old Mearns Academy into an energy efficient artisan centre has been given support by several groups in the town.

They include the Laurencekirk Development Trust, Mearns Business Club and Mearns Community Council.

The vision, developed by David McGrath of Grampian Energy Services and introduced to the community by Tero Luoma, who lives in Laurencekirk, is seeking support from the community of The Mearns to progress this novel idea.

The project would see local craftspeople involved in designing goods, which would be manufactured and sold on site, with an opportunity for visitors to see the whole process. The administrative side of the business, including sales, marketing and accounts would be housed in the building, and there would also be a cafe and gift shop.

Mike Robson from the Development Trust said: “With the continuing challenges to maintain the economy of the North-east, a concept to establish an artisan centre in Laurencekirk would provide a unique opportunity to create a dedicated centre for innovative artisans to access workshops and business services on a dedicated site.

“At a time when our younger generation are finding it particularly challenging to find good career opportunities locally this could make a significant difference to the area and reduce the ever increasing proportion of residents who have no choice but to commute long distances to work.”

Mr McGrath said: “This complex could generate between 50 to 100 jobs, create quality product manufacturing that could be exported across the UK, Europe and further afield whilst creating a very significant tourist attraction putting Laurencekirk firmly on the tourist map. If successful this could see a boost to the local economy of £7-10m annually in manufacture, services and tourism.

“The project is just a concept, but a carefully prepared one which - if Mearns decided they wanted it - we could have.”

To get the project off the ground, Mr McGrath and Mr Luomo explained that they would need the backing of the community, and they need willing people to come forward to get involved in making the centre a reality. The land is currently owned by Aberdeenshire Council.