MEMBERS of the public are to get their say on a plan estimated at between £2.5 million and £3 million to safeguard Musselburgh’s Old Town Hall and Tolbooth for future generations.

Led by the Musselburgh and Heritage Group, the project involves restoration of the historic town centre building to bring its upper floors back into use.

An architect has now completed a comprehensive report on options for the site, which is owned by the Musselburgh Common Good Fund but looked after by East Lothian Council.

The aim is to consult the public on the plan in February.

Barry Turner, a trustee of the group, said: “The starting point for the project was ‘can this key listed building, which is a Common Good asset, be brought back into full use and if so how?’ “We did not have any firm views at the outset about uses.

“The advice we and a working group of interested parties received from Historic Environment Scotland was to undertake a feasibility study/options appraisal using a specialist architect. So we received quotes, decided on one and approached the Common Good committee for funding to carry out the study which we received.

“The brief in summary was to show how disabled access could be achieved so that the whole building would be accessible and to come up with options as to how this might be done. We also asked for an assessment of condition and the work required to bring the building up to scratch and we asked for cost estimates.

“One option involves access through the existing pend under the Tolbooth direct from High Street. The other involves access through a reopened arcade under the Town House and facing the market square.

“This second option would mean that some of the original appearance of the building could be restored but it requires more changes to the internal layout.

“The other advice we received from Historic Environment Scotland was to involve the public once we had something to show them asking for a view on any options identified and asking for views on how the building might be used.

“The consultation we are proposing, having been given the go-ahead to do so by the Musselburgh councillors who oversee the Common Good Fund, will be wide, asking a range of groups and organisations for their views through a variety of means.

“The main focus for the public will be an open day at the Old Town Hall on a Saturday, probably in February, when they can look round the whole building, get some information about it, look at the plans, and through a short questionnaire give a preference on the options and suggest uses to which the various spaces might be put.”

Mr Turner added: “The options are limited because of the physical nature of the building. The architect has identified two alternatives. There will not be other possibilities and so we will not be asking for other ideas.

“Had it not been such a unique and historic building we might have asked people at the outset for ideas on how it might be changed but the constraints are such that this was not realistic and we needed specialist input.

“So what we need from the consultation is a view on which option is preferred and what uses people want to see in the building.

“After analysis of what people have said, a preferred scheme will be identified and a business plan drawn up based around a possible range of uses that are feasible.

“The council as the effective owners of the building will then have to decide if they want to go ahead in partnership with the museum and heritage group to seek funding from a range of sources.”

The public consultation is being backed by the Musselburgh Area Partnership.

The building is in three parts: the Tolbooth, which is the High Street frontage, originally dates from the late 15th century, though except for the clock tower it was destroyed in 1544 and rebuilt in 1572. It has been a court, a jail and a police station.

The Old Town Hall fronting the square dates from 1733 and has been a court room and a meeting place for the town council with a market area beneath.

The Assembly Hall to the rear of the Town Hall was built in 1901 and was the forerunner of the Brunton Hall.