Plans to demolish Galashiels church given go-ahead

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

The death knell has been sounded for a Galashiels church after councillors voted to allow its demolition.

St Aidan’s Church, in Gala Park, is set to face the wrecking ball after its owner, Cumbria-based Book Development, concluded that renovating the B-listed Gothic building would be uneconomical.

At a meeting of Scottish Borders Council’s planning and building standards committee on Monday, principal planning officer Barry Fotheringham said demolition was the only economically viable option left.

He said: “The building is not physically incapable of repair, therefore the overriding principle that needs to be satisfied is one of economic viability.

“This application is supported by feasibility reports and valuations which estimate the building is beyond the point of economic repair.

“Various options have been explored, including the conversion of the church into residential properties, though this would incur a loss of £700,000, based on 2018 costs.

“An alternative scheme for a development which would retain the front facade of the church and the spire was also evaluated, and this would potentially result in a loss of around £1m.

“The applicant provided subsequent figures that would need to be invested in order to make a profit.  

“These assessments conclude that in order to make a reasonable profit, 29 units would be required on site, with 24 units behind the facade and five on the site behind the church.

“It is accepted that not all options have been explored, but it is reasonable to assume that the applicant has demonstrated that a substantial and likely inappropriate development would be required to make the scheme viable.

“I am satisfied that the viability argument has been met.”

Speaking in favour of allowing the demolition, East Berwickshire councillor Helen Laing said: “I just think this is really, really sad to lose this fabulous building. It depresses me, but I can’t see any other option but to approve this as pretty much all options have been reasonably explored, so it’s with a heavy heart that I vote with the officer’s recommendation.”

Galashiels councillor Sandy Aitchison also supported the recommendation to allow the demolition but said he would be sad to see it go, adding: “There’s a huge emotional issue in terms of buildings and things which are of historic significance.

“I worry about the future of built environments. Take our capital city for example. There are some huge historical buildings, and the upkeep of these buildings is hugely expensive. What are we going to do with them? They can’t all be Wetherspoons.

“It’s a sad reflection of society that many have gone that way. I prefer to see it demolished rather than see it degraded, and that’s a sad thing to say.”

“I just want to stop the continuous pain of it degrading and just see it go, so I’m happy to support the demolition, but it is tinged with regret and sadness.”