A Forfar church is preparing for a final throw of the dice in its bid to raze a local landmark and replace it with a 21st century community centre.
St Margaret’s on the town’s West High Street is facing a near £1.5 million pound bill for repairs and refurbishment of the former West Church following decades of decay.
The building dates back to the 1880s, but is not listed, and more than 20 years after options for the future first came under scrutiny, the church remains committed to the idea of replacement rather than repair of the main kirk.
However, plans for a new church within a multiple-use facility which would be available for wider community use failed to find favour with Angus planners and were rejected by development standards committee councillors last year.
The imposing stone and slate towered church, sitting in Forfar’s conservation area, would be replaced with a circular-fronted modern facility incorporating a café, multipurpose hall, kitchen, storage and toilet facilities, as well as a vestry, oratory and office.
Feasibility studies for the new plan have delivered a cost estimate of just over £1m against a projected £1.4 million for refurbishment of the existing building.
The church hopes approval of a new-build facility would be the key to unlocking potentially vital funding support from major trusts and sources including the national lottery .
Forfar Community Council has backed the proposal, encouraging the church to re-used downtakings from the historic building, but Historic Environment Scotland objected in respect of an associated Conservation Area Consent (CAC) application, expressing concerns of the loss of St Margaret’s Church.
The plan also drew almost 150 letters of support, but in September the proposals were rejected on grounds including the detrimental impact its demolition would have on the character of the town’s conservation area.
On Tuesday, members of Angus Council’s development management review committee will be presented with a raft of material in an effort to convince councillors to overturn the September decision.
In its submission, St Margaret’s has said: “The church needs to adapt to meet the needs of not only its existing users but also to meet the needs of the future generations.
“Amongst other things this means, as a minimum, providing a warm, light, energy-efficient and welcoming environment with easily adaptable size of meeting spaces that can readily meet the needs of the groups who wish to use them.”