In 2003, Scottish & Southern Electricity (SSE), developers of a local wind farm, purchased the derelict, 1863-built, Old Clyne School (OCS) site with a view to demolishing the boundary wall to gain access for their large plant from the A9 to their site. Planning permission was denied and the building became a responsibility for them and surplus to their requirements. SSE contacted CHS in 2009, with a view to renovating it for use as a heritage centre.
After lengthy negotiations, in February 2018, SSE gifted the building, together with £1,000,000 to CHS for redevelopment of the site as its own Brora Heritage Centre. Circa £80k of this has been spent on necessary surveys, reports and design plans.
The building is perfectly situated on the main Inverness to Caithness arterial A9 Trunk road, on the northern outskirts of Brora, at its junction with the public road to the nearby Clynelish Distillery and its tourist visitor centre. It also lies on the new and increasingly popular NC500 tourist route.
The kind gift by SSE of the OCS to CHS, together with a £1m renovation fund, has afforded the Society the opportunity, with the securing of further funds, to renovate the building. This will enable it to function as a focus for community heritage, thereby fittingly returning it to be a place of education once again. With the site and around a third of the renovation budget secured, this project is within grasp.
The building’s renovation for future use as a Heritage Centre is perceived by CHS as a further evolution of its fabric and function, but an evolution that will first conserve, and then exemplify, the essential features of its architect’s original design. It will be a big ‘step-up’ for CHS, but one which it is confident of being able to take.
The Society is still in the process of raising the remainder of the c£2m required to get the redevelopment underway.
The project will actually deliver:
• The renovation of a derelict C-listed former parish school (1863-1903), now owned by CHS, prominently located on the A9 trunk road (part of the NC500 tourist route), on the northern side of the village of Brora;
• The opportunity for CHS to relocate from the existing Highland Council-owned BHC, poorly located 1km from the village on a side road;
• The use of the building as the Heritage Centre for CHS, as well as a focus for all of its locally well-supported activities, maximizing its location to attract passing visitors;
• A first-class café and retail area, to sustainably support the operation of the centre;
• The flexibility of the café space to be transformed into a seated auditorium or open space for events;
• Widespread social and economic benefits to the area.