Lauriston Church Tollcross News Edinburgh News Sports News

Plans to resurrect city kirk revealed

A historic church is set for a new lease of life after 20 years in the doldrums.

The 19th century Lauriston United Presbyterian Church has fallen victim to vandals and the elements since being bought by the Arab Social League of Edinburgh in 1982.

The group hoped to turn the church into a community centre, but a lack of cash meant the 146-year-old listed building fell into disuse.

Today, Abdul Algader, chairman of the Arab Social League, said he hoped a deal was about to be struck to repair the church and bring the building back into regular use. If that fails, the group plans to sell it to a developer.

Mr Algader said: "I am currently in talks with students from a Gulf state who wish to hire part of the building to use as a social club."

The deal would potentially provide the Arab Social League with thousands of pounds a month in rent, which would be pumped into repairing the building.

A survey five years ago put the cost of refurbishing the church at between £83,000 and £103,000, but the price is expected to have risen since then.

Mr Algader said he had also been approached by at least five property developers interested in buying the building and that the church would go on the market if rental plans fell through.

The league represents more than 100 Lothan families with their roots in countries such as Algeria, Egypt and Libya.

Mr Algader said it had taken so long to decide the future of the church because many members of the league had left Edinburgh.

Although two members of the league were regarded as the Lauriston Church owners, many people shared in the decision-making process.

The Gothic-style church at 59 Lauriston Place was built by Archibald Scott in 1859.

It has galleries on three sides, a central pulpit and a Victorian organ.

Jack Gillon, of the Scottish Civic Trust’s buildings at risk register, said the condition of the grade C listed church had long been a matter of concern.

The Trust’s last resort to protect the building would be to serve a compulsory purchase order, whereby the council would buy it.

But Mr Gillon said this was done "rarely".

He added that putting a building on the buildings at risk register was a good way of advertising it to prospective buyers.

"We’ve had a lot of interest, particularly from church groups who want to turn it back into a church," he said.

Source: Joanna Vallely, Evening News, 13th April, 2005


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