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Caithness News Bulletins February 2006

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Caithness Horizons Highland Council
A New Era For Thurso Town Hall As Councillors Hold Last Meeting
The doors of Thurso Town Hall were locked this week - marking the end of the current use of the Victorian building and a start to a £3.5 million redevelopment to create a new community, cultural and tourism centre. Last users of the building were The Highland Council's Caithness Area Committee, who met there on Monday (27 February 2006). They will meet at North Highland College, Thurso until returning to the town hall following refurbishment in early 2008.

The first phase of the facelift will involve the letting of an enabling works contract, which will include stripping out of fixtures and fittings and further structural and condition surveys. This work will allow the detailed design to be completed ahead of the letting of phase two which will see a contract let for the major refurbishment of the town hall and the museum.

The redevelopment is being managed by Caithness Horizons, a partnership formed to create an outstanding facility at the town hall for the benefit of the local community and visitors to Caithness and the North Highlands.

As well as providing modern facilities for community use, the refurbished buildings will contain accredited museum telling the story of the area and develop existing exhibitions owned by Thurso Heritage Society and the UKAEA's Visitor Centre at Dounreay. Other components of the centre will be a tourist information centre, a café, areas for community access and lecture and audio-visual presentation facilities.

The main permanent exhibition will include an interactive display to promote the tourism attractions and places of interest to visit throughout the North Highlands.

Paul Cariss, Chairman of Caithness Horizons, said: "The funding for this exciting project is now and place and the closure of the hall will signal to the public that we are ready to press ahead with our plans to create a focal point in delivering cultural, community and economic benefits for Caithness and the North Highlands."

Councillor David Flear, Convener of The Highland Council's Caithness Area Committee, said: "The town hall has for many years been the civic home of Caithness and the Council fully intends to return here just as soon as refurbishment is completed. I am delighted that Caithness Horizons has been able to attract the necessary funds - and delighted that the Council has been able to play its part in bringing this project to fruition."