Drikus - my budget is flexible. See below.
French Rooster - I like the idea if the Sondek but what concerns me is the expense from the off, and the money pit potential of endless upgrade temptation. An SME would be a lovely idea, but even the entry Model 10 is something like 4.3K RRP without an arm / cartridge. Unless I could find a used one…
TabbyCat - interesting observations about maintenance costs of the two decks over time. I only had an LP12 for a couple of years, so never had that expense.
After a little more thought over the weekend I’ve settled on a plan - Initially to buy a well maintained used Planar 3 or a Pro-Ject Debut of some sort. Something that will only need a new cartridge or stylus and is easy to set up. I’ll then be able to confirm if my old discs are in good order, and when / If sold, I won’t lose that much.
If I go all in to the point of expanding the record collection, then in a few months I’ll increase the budget to accommodate a new RP8, possibly an RP10 if the performance gains are worthwhile (and I can save the extra). I’ll also investigate some of the other brands recommended - Avid Ingenium & Diva, Michell Gyro, Original Live, Pro-Ject Xtension 10etc. But this will mean some travelling - and patience!