Latest Update- 11/01/2021
The church is a single storey building dating from around 1900. It sits in the centre of Errogie and comprises an entrance hall, the main church hall and a vestry at the rear. There is mains water and electricity and a sceptic tank. The rateable value is £4,400.00pa
The building was used by the Free Church until approximately two years ago, since when it has stood empty
The market valuation report by DM Hall notes that the condition of the property is consistent with its age, type and location. The surveyor valued the building at £90k
Benefit to the Community
The rationale for purchasing the building is that it will provide a meeting place for the community in the north end of the Strath. It will complete a network of properties ensuring that in those areas where there is a concentration of households there is a Trust-funded amenity on their doorstep.
Purpose of the Building
The purpose of the Church will be to provide facilities for relatively small groups engaged in very specific activities such as cookery lessons, dance classes, cinema, museum etc. It is not intended to use the building for large gatherings in order that it functions as an annexe to and not in competition with Stratherrick Public Hall. The specific activities that are provided in this building will be developed in consultation with the local community and how it sits within the overall vision we are developing for the Trust’s property portfolio
The Local Community
We have either met or emailed more than 30 people who live in the vicinity of the church. The outcome of those conversations is that 90% support the idea of a meeting space. The figures are 27 in favour, 2 no and one maybe. Those that expressed an opinion were enthusiastic about the church because of the character and history of the building.
These are a number of quotes extracted from our conversations:
- ‘All of the investment by the Trust has been in the south of the area, it is time that facilities are developed on our doorstep’
- ‘We live on the edge of the village and feel rather out of it. It will be great to have somewhere that we can meet our neighbours’
- ‘It would be a wonderful space for a museum of life in the Strath. I did a show of old musical instruments and a talk on cheese making. The feeling afterwards was that it was a real shame we had nowhere for a permanent collection’
- ‘Could there be space for a community craft shop. It is very common out on the West coast. We’ve just come back from a trip to Ardnamurchan and there were a number of such ventures scattered around’
- ‘It could be open certain hours and staffed by volunteers on a rota, with maybe a local employed as a caretaker. It would be great to have a positive community focus that people actually want’
- ‘It think there are insufficient number of people who would use it’
Most of the people we interviewed said they would participate in an ‘Errogie Church Support Club’ helping to define the role of the building and helping to run it.
Purpose of the Building
With regards to the purpose of the building, we have already talked about how it will complete the strategic objective of ensuring there will be access to amenities on the doorstep of all areas where there is a concentration of people.
The vision we are developing as a Board at the moment is being created to ensure all the buildings and properties play both a unique and complementary role.
Locally there is enthusiasm for a building that caters specifically for music and arts. This is partly driven by the nature of the families living in the area. The village is home to two excellent Scottish Traditional musicians, and then are a number of artists living locally. Ideas floated on the doorstep included a permanent space for arts and crafts activities including a workshop, cupboards to store equipment and gallery/exhibition space. From our conversations it has become clear that it must not compete with Stratherrick Public Hall, which is regarded with great fondness by many residents in the Strath.
The Trust Membership
We have surveyed the members of the Trust using SurveyMonkey. We asked a single question: The Trust currently owns sites at Whitebridge and Foyers and at the centre of the area is Stratherrick Public Hall. This leaves a gap at the northern end of the Strath to serve households in Errogie and Torness. Do you agree in principle that we should provide a community meeting space in this area? It was a simple ‘yes’ ‘no’ response.
To date (13.30 2.09,2020) we have received 31 replies with 70% in favour, 20% against and 10% have no view.
We asked people to provide comments in support of their answer – we received 18 comments.
- I think it's important that our community has easy access to a range of facilities that are spread out evenly over our geographical area.
- It could be quite small but with enough space for a local community meal and a blether . We won’t know how to use it yet, but build it and we will use it.
- As long as it can be proven that an additional property will be used and not sit empty and what about something at Inverfarigaig then each of the 4 corners of community are covered.
- I think an additional asset for our community would be beneficial especially as there are no Trust facilities down that area
- It would be nice to see the trust actually spend money on the smaller things our community needs, not another building for the directors to freely spend the community money on like is happening with Wildside
- Surely the Community has enough meeting spaces already . Upkeep of properties can become a millstone around a community’s neck
- I am ambivalent about this. I'm not sure what we would use it for, as it's only a couple of miles to the Hall. I understand your reasoning, just not sure if this is a best use of Trust funds.
We approached the Trust’s retained architect, Mike Lawson to provide guidance on the suitability of purchasing Errogie Church for the purpose described above.
He considered the building to be suitable for conversion. Internally there is water damage to the plasterwork, particularly at the west end that takes the brunt of the winter weather, there is a suspended wooden floor that is damaged by woodworm I places and there is bowing to what appear to the main purlins.
Externally it is constructed of granite blocks with no signs of movement and the roof is in reasonable condition for its age.
Mike advises that the renovation should be tackled in two or three phases and recommended that the first step should be to remedy the main fabric elements. This included stripping out the timber ground floor structure and replacing it with concrete slab and insulation, stripping out the lathe and plaster to walls and coombs and replacing with plasterboard lining and insulation, removing and renewing the grooved lining boards to the ceiling and injecting DPC to walls.
On Mike’s advice, Gary Wilson, from WSD Inverness, was instructed to prepare a cost estimate to rectify the main fabric elements. His estimate, provided on July 23rd, is £90.000.00.
The Structural Engineer
Mike’s one concern about the structure of the building was bowing in the roof timbers. This will be historic movement and he advised we sought the advice of a structural engineer.
We instructed Andrew Fleming, from Fairhurst Engineers Inverness, who is the technical director and is a conservation accredited engineer. He visited the church and concluded that the building structure appears in fair to good condition with no evidence of structural defects to the external masonry walls. The roof structure externally appears in fair condition. Internally there is evidence of bending/deflection of tie beams. He recommended that a provision of between £20k and £30k should be made for remedial work to the timber and masonry.
The particulars for sale describe the building as ‘to be suitable for residential conversion/development.’ We are of course proposing to use the building for community purposes which is in line with its current use. In order to get reassurance that this would be allowed we sought the help of Councillor Margaret Davidson, Highland Council leader.
She spoke to the senior planners and replied: ‘I have spoken with planning and they have no problem in principle to converting an old church into a community centre. there would also be the usual planning issues, entrances, sightlines parking, disabled access and other things.’
We have researched whether the building is listed. A search of the database of protected buildings managed by Historic Environment Scotland returned only one result for Errogie – the former United Free ‘Tin Church’ that sits along the road, separated by a field.
The costs of purchasing the building and bringing it back into use are the purchase, approximately £95,000, restoring it to a useable space £90,000 and a provision for restoring an old building, £20,000 to £30,000k
We have consulted with SSE and they have agreed this is an appropriate investment (TBC). We will then seek match funding for the restoration and conversion of the building.
There is certainly an appetite for a community space in this end of the Strath which will enable the vision of providing doorstep amenities in every part of the area. It is an old building which brings an element of risk in terms of the cost of bringing it back into public use.
Conversely, there is a strong argument that restoring a building, whose historic purpose has been to support and enable a healthy vibrant community, is an appropriate project for the Trust. The developed building would also contribute to a property portfolio that will form part of the legacy fund.
The concern was expressed at the special Board meeting about the ongoing cost of maintaining the property portfolio. If purchased, we will work with the Financial Director to develop a strategic investment plan that will provide the work plan and resources for the maintenance of all Trust buildings. There is unlikely, looking at the buildings in the area, that anything suitable for community use will come onto the market in the near future.
We ask the members of the board to decide on the following recommendation:
- A meeting space is provided in the north end of the Strath
- The Trust purchases Errogie Church to fulfil this purpose
Please email your responses by 09.00 am tomorrow Tuesday 22nd, September 2020.
Gareth Jones – Director
Lorraine Lewis - Director
|Mrs Lorraine Lewis|
|Mr Gareth Jones|