Calls for old Kelso church to come to ground and give way to car parking

Warnings of a parking crisis unless something is done to alleviate congestion in Kelso have led to calls for a historic church to be flattened.

Wednesday, 13th November 2019, 4:18 pm
The old North Trinity Church, Kelso.

Suggestions about how to improve traffic management in the cobbled town centre were shared at this week’s community council meeting.

And among the ideas about how more parking spaces could be created was the suggested demolition of North Trinity Church.

The East Bowmont Street building has not been used as a church in over 50 years and recently went back on the market, just eight months after its latest owner launched ambitious plans to turn it into a community venue.

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Community councillor Harry Tomczyk said: “It’s a decent bit of land there that could be used for parking. It’s sitting there mouldering away.

“Eventually it will become a big problem. Unless anyone can see reason otherwise, then we should consider that.”

Chairman Dean Weatherston added: “It has sat empty long enough, so there must be a pretty good case for it. You can’t keep a listed building that hasn’t been used for 50 years just sitting as it is.”

The category B-listed church, designed by architect John Starforth and erected as Kelso United Presbyterian Church between in 1886, was a place of worship for Kelso folk for almost 100 years.

It was also been home to controversial New Zealand-born inventor and conspiracy theorist Dean Warwick and his actress wife Jean for over 20 years, but it fell into disrepair following his death in 2006.

The Future Kelso group attempted to turn the church into a community hub in 2011, but it remained derelict until February when Bulgarian developer Kirk Kirchev bought it for £80,000 with the intention of renovating it on a shoestring budget of just £35,000.

The 0.4-acre site, including the 600sq metre church and an adjoining church hall, reappeared on the market this autumn through Edinburgh estate agent Ballantynes inviting offers over an undisclosed amount.

However, the practicalities ofr any hopes of it being pulled down were called into doubt by regional councillor Simon Mountford.

He warned: “Scottish Borders Council cannot be seen to be pulling down a listed building.”

He added that progressing down that route would be a “laborious” process.

His counterpart Tom Weatherston added: “Someone might pay a lot of money for it. It’s not up to the public or the council to decide its fate.”

Nevertheless, councillor Euan Robson, currently heading up an in-depth review of parking in the town amid fears it will soon be overrun by more cars than parking spaces, agreed he would “ask the question” and try to determine the feasibility of the idea.