Historic Galashiels church facing demolition

St Aidan's Church in Galashiels.
St Aidan's Church in Galashiels.

Time looks to have run out for a historic Galashiels church, and bulldozers are now poised to move in to flatten it.

St Aidan’s Church in Gala Park was originally set to be knocked down two years ago after the B-listed building was deemed to be beyond repair.

However, it was granted a stay of execution after Historic Environment Scotland objected to the demolition plans.

Cumbria-based Book Development has now concluded it is not economically viable, because of the worsening state of the former church and its church hall, to convert it into housing and is again seeking its demolition.

Members of Scottish Borders Council’s planning and building standards committee will be recommended to rubber-stamp the move when they meet this morning, September 3.

A report to the committee by planning officer Carlos Clark says: “The applicants have added an update on the projected development costs and projected income and included a potential grant income of £500,000 towards repair work at the church which is considered to be possible, although no formal application to Historic Environment Scotland has actually been submitted.

“Crucially, however, even with the inclusion of some grant support, the projected gap between income and expenditure has increased to a range of £637,000 to £712,000.

“They are, therefore, satisfied that the application has satisfactorily demonstrated that the retention and conversion of the former church and church hall is simply not economically viable.”

In response, Historic Environment Scotland has accepted that St Aidan’s can no longer be saved, but it has requested that the developer attempt to “salvage some of the more significant elements of the building”.

These could include retention of the tower and frontage gable and war memorials within a replacement structure.

Mr Clark adds: “The applicant has also responded to a question raised by Historic Environment Scotland in its initial response when it accepted that overall retention of the church looks to be not possible but raised the question of the potential retention of the facade and tower only and building a new development to the rear.

“The applicants have included in their revised supporting statement some figures within the text which appears to also show this not to be not economically viable.”

Architectural Heritage Society Scotland has lodged an objection to the demolition request, saying: “St Aidan’s Church is B-listed and makes a significant contribution to the Gala Park area, particularly its tower and fine north facade with an impressive rose window.

“It is misleading to use the proposed economics of the approved 2014 scheme, which is not to be developed, to justify complete demolition, when an alternative scheme taking into account the current condition of the church may present a viable means of preserving the most important elements of the structure.”

The 136-year-old building was originally named the South United Presbyterian Church, but in 1936 it merged with the former Trinity Church in High Street and changed its name to St Cuthbert’s.

Then, in 1974, St Cuthbert’s was united with Ladhope Parish Church, and it was renamed St Aidan’s in 1981.

St Aidan’s closed in 2005 due to low congregation numbers and high maintenance costs and has been unused ever since.

In 2007, Braedale Developments bought the plot and set out plans to create 26 flats, with planning permission being granted in 2009.

Following the dissolution of Braedale Developments, Book Developments took over the project in 2014 and submitted a new planning application for 16 flats, and that was approved in 2014.