A COMMUNITY bid to take over a landmark church building has overcome its first hurdle.
London Road Church, at the corner of Easter Road, was put up for sale by the Church of Scotland earlier this year after the congregation merged with another nearby.
But local campaigners got together to form a company, In:spire East End Ltd, to take a community bid forward and now the Scottish Government has accepted their application as valid, which means the Church of Scotland is prevented from selling the building until Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham decides whether the proposed buy-out can proceed to the next stage.
If it is successful, the community bid could see the church become a base for a wide range of activities from theatre, music and exhibitions to Scouts, Guides and Brownies, a club for elderly people, a community cinema, dancing and badminton.
The Save London Road Church campaign was required to show it had support of 15 per cent of the local population for its bid, but in the end it collected 1951 verified signatures – or 17.9 per cent of registered voters in the area.
Lawrence Marshall, former session clerk at the church and a leading figure in the buy-out bid, said: “Our first important goal has been achieved. We are delighted the immediate threat of a sale of the church on the open market has been averted and hope for a positive decision from the minister.”
He said there was no shortage of groups and organisations interested in using the building as a new community space.
“We have already engaged a great deal with the local and wider community as to the aspirations and needs the former church might help meet – and are being contacted regularly by organisations looking for space.”
Four months ago, Action Porty successfully became the first group to secure a community buy-out in an urban area under new legislation when they took over the former Portobello Old Parish Church and Halls in Bellfield Street to become a multi-use community hub.
If the London Road bid is allowed to proceed, In:spire will get eight months to secure funding to buy the building.
The Church of Scotland put it on the market at offers around £590,000. The sale price to In:spire has to be at market value.
Mr Marshall said In:spire had already made contact with the Scottish Land Fund, which can give up to 95 per cent funding for community bodies to purchase properties under right to buy.
Even if it gains the maximum support, the community would still have to raise around £30,000 itself plus the cost of conversion work on the building.
A spokesman for the Church of Scotland said: “The general sale process has been halted and the General Trustees have until September 21 to submit their views on the registration of the community buy-out to Scottish ministers, which is what they will do.
“In the meantime, other interested parties are aware of the situation.”