Lauriston Church Tollcross News Edinburgh News Sports News

Praise be, church set for sale

A church which has lain empty for more than 20 years is set to be sold to developers for more than £1.5 million.

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 never became the community centre the group planned and hopes to hire it out to students fell through.

But today church owners revealed they finally had one firm bid, while another prospective buyer had viewed the building and was likely to make an offer.

One of the interested parties is keen to turn the C-listed building into flats, while the other wants to open an activity centre for teenagers.

Abdul Algader, of the Arab Social League, said he had been privately contacted by an Edinburgh-based developer.

He said: "We are negotiating selling the building. We are asking £1.5m or over. A developer gave us an offer and I am now waiting for the chairman to come back from holiday in a week to see if we accept it."

He added that he had received other interest in the church but that they were only interested in selling for the right price.

A consortium of Edinburgh businessmen are keen to turn the church into an indoor activity centre for teenagers, with a skate facility and an indoor climbing wall. The group viewed the church on Tuesday and said they were preparing to put in an offer, although the building was in much worse condition than they expected.

Doug McFadzean, an architect in the New Town, who is part of the consortium, said there was an urgent need for a skate space in Edinburgh.

"There is a very strong demand for indoor activity by the skating community. Lots of skaters who congregate in Bristo Square will use it. I did an architecture degree at Edinburgh College of Art and used to pass the church daily. We wanted a building with high walls so we could put in a climbing wall and this is a great building."

Mr McFadzean, who specialises in conservation work, said the floor had been extensively fire damaged and the basement ceiling was caved in.

He said that a survey done six years ago putting the cost of refurbishments at just under £100,000, was now a vastly conservative estimate.

"At the moment the interior of the church is in a very poor condition. The basement is full of debris and hundreds of pigeons.

"The windows on one side are missing so it's open to the elements," he said.

Mr McFadzean said they would make an offer although he admitted they could probably not compete with an offer by a residential developer.

However, he said he thought it might be difficult for a developer to gain planning permission for flats because of a lack of light and problems in subdividing the building.

Another member of the consortium, Stockbridge business advisor Dougie Graham said: "The place is a real mess but it's a fantastic space for kids. We've been asked to put in an offer in the next few weeks but I've asked for an extension until November."

Source: Joanna Vallely, Evening News, 19th August, 2006

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