A HISTORIC community centre that helped fire up the career of one of Edinburgh’s most famous rock singers could be facing closure – after suffering “decades of neglect” in the hands of the council.
Plans set to go before councillors in May could see Inch Community Centre – where Shirley Manson, lead singer of Garbage, practised music as a youngster – shut and sold off to a private developer.
But furious community groups have now launched a last-ditch effort to keep the A-listed structure open, insisting it provides space for dozens of local clubs and bands and sees 20,000 people come through its doors every year.
They argue the council has “failed” in its duty to maintain the building, and revealed city officials had even admitted in a private meeting that it had suffered “decades of neglect”.
Moves to close the centre, which dates to at least the 17th century, come after it was temporarily closed last year when a block of masonry fell from its roof and hit a parked car.
Mark Mulgrew, chair of Inch Community Association, said locals were “absolutely against” the building shutting, with a petition amassing 700 names in the last few days alone.
He insisted the centre was going from strength-to-strength, adding: “Just as things are advancing, we are getting the rug pulled from under our feet.”
He said: “There are two sides to this. It’s a historic building, but if you break up the community centre, you are breaking up part of the community. Where will these people go?
“The problem we have is the council have not looked at any alternatives. They are simply trying to wash their hands of it.
“I think we have to look at other avenues such as community ownership or external funding. These things have not been explored by the council.”
It is understood officials have estimated vital repairs would cost around £1 million – but community leaders insist this figure is vastly inflated.
Ian Murray, MP for Edinburgh South, said the centre had “been at the heart of the local community for generations”.
He said: “I’m helping support the management committee and Inch Community Association in their quest to ensure the centre has a vibrant future.
“We’ve started a petition to ask the council to leave no stone unturned in the options for Inch House and allow the management committee to repair and grow the centre.
“It should not be closed or disposed off but invested in for the benefit of the current and future generations.”
A council spokeswoman said: “A full report on the condition of Inch House is being prepared and will be presented to councillors at the next education, children and families committee in May.
“However, from initial surveys it is clear that the building is in need of considerable work, and obviously the health and safety of our staff and of the public must take priority.
“Everyone is aware of the severe financial challenges currently facing the council so we have to carefully consider where our investment priorities lie, and this will be reflected in the forthcoming report. There is also a clear understanding of the need to ensure that local services continue.”