Town attractions to be handed over to community?

THE viability of handing over two of Stonehaven’s tourist attractions to be run by the community is being investigated.

Aberdeenshire Council is encouraging groups to take ownership of local assets across the region, in a bid to cut costs.

The local authority has to make more than £50 million worth of efficiencies over the next three years but hopes to avoid shutting down facilities by handing control over to communities.

Discussions are currently on-going with Stonehaven Town Partnership about the future of both the Tolbooth Museum and the town’s Caravan Park. The agency played a lead role in the handing over of the town hall to a community trust last year.

Aberdeenshire Council has held a series of meetings with community representatives in recent weeks to discuss the implications of the budget cuts on their communities.

A spokesman for the council said: “When all of the public meetings have taken place we are looking to put together a guide to give information on the next steps for groups who want to take ownership of local assets, including who to contact and other useful information.

“The thought is that we’ll set up a group to look after projects as they are put forward. In the meantime, anyone looking for further information should speak to their local area manager.”

David Fleming, secretary of the Stonehaven Town Partnership, said there were still many details to be discussed and the process of handing over the facilities was at a very early stage. The group discussed the issue at a meeting earlier this week.

“We decided that it was the partnership’s job to facilitate some of these moves even though they are at a very early stage,” he said.

“A lot of work needs to go into finding out the best way to proceed, which of the many organisations in the town need to be involved and what is the best structure to be most successful.

“Funds have been allocated for a number of pieces of initial work to make sure these ideas are progressed quickly.”

He added: “The move has been in the offing for quite a while but the restrictions on Aberdeenshire Council’s budget have forced them to urgently consider that any service not deemed a core service might be managed in a different way and this became apparent at the budget meeting in December.

“There are already very good examples of this happening such as Inverbervie Caravan Park and the Partnership acknowledges that we need to go and research these examples.”

Mr Fleming said: “It is an important principle that simply by having the local community involved, and an asset locally managed, it is likely to be more efficient than some of the current arrangements.

“Another excellent example exists in the management of the Open Air Pool which is an active partnership between the Friends of the Pool and Aberdeenshire Council.”

Anyone who would like to find out more about the current situation should get in touch with Stonehaven Town Partnership secretary David Fleming on 01569 767200.