500 flock to Kelso kirk

Kelso church

Kelso church

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Kelso’s former Trinity North Church proved a major attraction at the weekend, drawing 500 visitors during the town’s ‘open doors’ event.

The event was part of the nationally-coordinated Doors Open Days, organised by the Scottish Civic Trust, which runs throughout September each year as part of the European Heritage Days initiative.

Kelso church

Kelso church

Organised locally by Kelso and District Amenity Society, with support from the Kelso Townscape Heritage Initiative, it saw 13 buildings in Kelso throw open their doors, offering a variety of complimentary events alongside access to some of the town’s fascinating properties.

Kelso Town Hall acted as the base for the showcase, with information on participating properties, as well as an exhibition, organised by Kelso Connections, looking at historical images of the town’s buildings.

Several years ago, a local group saw its ambitious plans to rescue the crumbling East Bowmont Street church from further deterioration and convert it into a community, cultural and arts facility fail when the B-listed Gothic building was sold off to a firm of Edinburgh developers.

The new owners began to tidy up the property at the end of last year, and visitors on Saturday were informed by Scottish Borders Council staff, that the owners’ new plans involved turning the building into two private homes.

Kelso church

Kelso church

A planning application has now been lodged seeking consent to turn the church hall into a domestic dwelling.

However, in a statement issued this week, owner Nerinder Jandoo told The Southern that no final decision had, as yet, been made on the future of the church building itself.

“We remain undecided as to the future use of the building,” she said.

“Having met many people on Saturday during the St James’ Fair, we took the opportunity to listen to their suggestions as to the future use of the building. They are clearly interested and have given us only positive feedback and encouragement.  

“The suggestions and ideas are wide-ranging with an emphasis on the provision of recreational and community facilities for those living in Kelso.”

Local community councillor Colin McGrath says if firm action does not happen soon, a community buy-out of the property should be considered, utilising the same legislation used in community land acquisitions in the Hebrides.

“The latest story is the scheme to convert it into two private properties. But if this doesn’t go ahead, I’ll be suggesting we look at a community buy-out before it’s too late to do anything with it, he said.