A historic Perth church, which has been described as “iconic,” has received a massive boost with a funding pledge from the council of £100,000 over two financial years.
Members of Perth and Kinross Council’s Perth Common Good Fund committee passed an amendment this week, when they agreed to award £50,000 to St Matthew’s Church of Scotland by the end of March and then a further £50,000 in the next financial year.
The church needs about £1 million for its planned Sanctuary Redevelopment Project. This would see the church being converted into a “safe, warm, bright and useful” facility, seven days a week.
It is hoped conservation and repair work will take place to help the building’s long term maintenance and establish an information programme to attract Perth residents and visitors.
Property and construction consultants Hardies have been contracted to project manage the work on behalf of the church.
Perth Common Good Fund committee has been told the project costs for the 143-year-old building are estimated to be about £916,028, which includes heating, seating and disabled access.
Councillor Jackie Coburn, convener of the committee, said that successful requests from other funding bodies total about £200,000. Applications to the Gannochy and Robertson Trusts (£100,000 each) are still pending.
Part of the external funding came from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), who have initially given £7,500 to help St Matthew’s Church.
“The church’s contribution is £382,839 and if successful with the Gannochy and Robertson Trust applications, this would leave a shortfall of £133,189,” Mr Coburn said.
“The request to this committee is for £150,000. The church has not benefited from the fund in the last three years.”
Councillor Callum Gillies told the committee he would like to see them award the church £50,000 and then loan St Matthew’s the remaining balance up to the total of £133,189. However, a council officer told Mr Gillies this was not possible.
Councillor Willie Wilson described the church as “iconic,” and suggested awarding £50,000 by the end of March and then another £50,000 in the next financial year.
“St Matthew’s Church is an expensive building to maintain,” he commented.
“The congregation have a big burden on their shoulders but they have a business plan.”
Mr Wilson told the committee that the church building is used for meetings and concerts but he added he couldn’t justify awarding them the £150,000.
Councillor Alexander Stewart said he was not “averse” to Mr Gillies’ proposal and said the church was “such a focal point” in the city.
“St Matthew’s is held in high esteem in Perth,” he said.
Mr Wilson’s amendment was agreed by the committee and was warmly welcomed by Councillor Peter Barrett, an elder and member of the Kirk Session at St Matthew’s.
He declared a non-financial interest and left the meeting while the issue was considered by councillors.
Following the decision, he said: “This is very good news for St Matthew’s and the refurbishment project and particularly for all the groups and members of the public who use the facilities at St Matthew’s.
“The refurbishment project will deliver more comfortable, sustainable facilities at the church and a much more flexible venue for a host of community activities and uses.
“I am very pleased that the council through the Perth Common Good Fund has recognised the important role St Matthew’s plays at the heart of our community.”
St Matthew’s Church is a prominent landmark in Perth’s Tay Street and is home to four First World War battalion colours of The Black Watch, as well as several memorials to the fallen.