The controversial issue of the fate of Kelso’s crumbling former Trinity North church surfaced again recently, with concerns about its condition.
Ambitious plans from a local group to rescue the East Bowmont Street structure from further deterioration and convert it into a community, cultural and arts facility failed and the B-listed Gothic building passed into the ownership of a firm of Edinburgh developers.
Local Scottish Borders councillor Alec Nicol told community councillors this month, that he had been in touch with the church’s owners, who recently made a start to tidying up the dilapidated property.
“But they’ve not made any decent progress. Only by keeping the pressure on them to keep tidying up the place will anything happen,” added Mr Nicol.
Community councillor Colin McGrath raised the possibility of the local authority starting compulsory purchase procedures (CPO).
But Scottish Borders councillor Tom Weatherston responded, pointing out that compulsory purchase procedures could only be triggered when some kind of public works, such as a railway or school project, was being held up.
“And this is not a public project that is being held up, so there’s no way Scottish Borders Council will trigger compulsory purchase procedures,” he explained. “Perhaps it might take council enforcement officers to get this moving.”
Mr Nicol added: “I don’t think we would’ve got the tidying up work that has taken place so far without the council’s enforcement officers.”
Fellow councillor Simon Mountford added: “ Whether CPO was triggered or not, there’s no money in the council budget for such a move.”
And Mr Nicol cautioned: “We still have to be careful over what we say – for all anyone knows, the owners might be about to come forward with a strong scheme.”
Community councillor Dean Weatherston said it appeared the church’s latest owners had bought the property “on a whim”.
“I think they’ve bought a lot of other churches in Edinburgh which they have been very successful in turning around,” he said.
“It’s only been about two years since they bought it, so they might still come up with some use for it.”
Provost John Bassett added: “I think we need to keep an eye on the situation.
“Let’s give it six months and if nothing happens by the end of that time, we can contact Scottish Borders Council and ask it to do something about it.”