London Road Church ‘could be saved’ in community buy-out

Laurence Marshall has big plans for the London Road Church. Picture: Neil Hanna
Laurence Marshall has big plans for the London Road Church. Picture: Neil Hanna
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A LANDMARK city church which closed earlier this year could be saved in a community buy-out.

London Road Church at the top of Easter Road was declared surplus to requirements by the Church of Scotland when the congregation merged with another nearby.

But now hundreds of residents have backed the idea of using community right-to-buy legislation to acquire the church and use it for a whole range of activities from a theatre and music venue, rehearsal space and exhibitions to a base for scouts, guides and brownies, a club for elderly people, a community cinema, dancing and badminton.

Lawrence Marshall, former session clerk of the church and one of the organisers of the Save London Road Church campaign which is proposing the community bid, said: “There are more ideas than you could dream of. The problem will be how to fit everyone into the space.”

They are taking inspiration from the success of the Action Porty group which has won final approval for the first urban community buy-out of the former Portobello Old Parish Church and Halls in Bellfield Street.

But Mr Marshall said the London Road scheme was larger and had even more potential than Bellfield.

He said about 100 people had attended a public meeting to discuss the bid and the idea had received strong backing.

But he said he was concerned the community initiative could be scuppered because the Church of Scotland had put the building up for sale on the open market and could set a closing date for offers.

“We need time,” he said. “We have to try and get our company set up to take forward the bid and we need 500-600 people to sign our petition in order to stop it being sold without us getting a chance.”

He said the area around the church was the tenth most densely populated in the UK outside London, yet it did not even have a community centre.

“I want to see this building retained for the benefit of the community, not sold off to the highest bidder.”

The buy-out bid has already got the backing of Edinburgh Northern & Leith SNP MSP Ben Macpherson.

He said: “I am proud to support the local campaign to turn London Road Church into a community asset. I hope the Church of Scotland will take these local ambitions seriously and engage positively with those leading the campaign steering group. The building has significant potential to become a dynamic and inclusive community asset, for the benefit of the local area and the city as a whole.”

A Church of Scotland spokesman said it had only learned of the community group’s interest in the London Road premises this week after the property had been put on the market.

“We look forward to receiving further information from the community about any bid. The Scottish Parliament’s land reform legislation has been created to ensure communities have reasonable time to prepare and mount a bid, and we are more than willing to work with these communities.”

ian.swanson@edinburghnews.com