Lauriston Church Tollcross News Edinburgh News Sports News

Fresh bid to bring church ruin back to a state of grace

A fresh bid to try and save a derelict city centre church has been launched by council chiefs.

Lauriston United Presbyterian Church on Lauriston Place has fallen into disrepair since it was bought by the Arab Social League of Edinburgh in 1982.

A lack of cash meant the 19th-century church was never turned into the community centre as the group had planned, and a series of bids to buy the building have failed in recent years.

City leaders are now planning to enter the C-listed church – which has featured on a register of Scotland's most at-risk buildings since 2001 – to try and gauge the exten­t of the decay.

The building has a leaking roof and several broken windows, and also suffered extensive fire damage seven years ago.

The council project will involve creating a schedule of work needed to restore it and ascertain its potential value. City leaders will then decide on whether to issue a repairs notice to the building owners or compulsory purchase the church in a bid to stop it from falling into complete ruin.

Councillor Jim Lowrie, the city's planning convener, said: "Lauriston Place Church is a prominent Victorian building which has sadly been allowed to fall into disrepair by the owners.

"The council has made many efforts to halt its decline and it is essential that any further deterioration is stopped as soon as possible."

Although the building is in a poor condition with tonnes of debris and a pigeon infestation, some of its interior features, such as its tiered gallery, are still in reasonable condition.

Council chiefs have received a number of enquiries regarding the building in recent years.

This has ranged from people wanting to convert it into housing to a consortium of Edinburgh businessmen who wanted to build an indoor activity centre for teenagers, with a skating facility and an indoor climbing wall.

In 2006, the Evening News reported that a £1.5 million deal to sell the church to property developers was close to completion but the deal never happened.

Councillor Charles Dundas, whose city centre ward includes the church, said: "It is beginning to become an eyesore and this is made worse by the fact it occupies such a high-profile location.

"It is good if we as a council can do something pro-active like this to try and move the situation on and find some sort of positive outcome for the building."

Neil Adams, an officer with the Scottish Civic Trust, which administers The Buildings at Risk Register, said: "

This building is a fairly significant structure of its time and we are obviously concerned at its neglect in recent years."

Nobody from the Arab Social League returned the Evening News' calls today, although last month a spokesperson said it was in advanced talks with a property developer over the church's sale.

Source: Andrew Picken, Evening News, 4th August, 2008

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