As the owner of the former Barony St John church and hall buildings on Ardrossan’s shorefront, winter is usually a fairly depressing time of the year for me.
Cold, wet weather and storms galore play havoc with public transport, making it difficult for the service users of our charity (The Scottish Centre for Personal Safety) to get to and from our Barony St John Centre, despite it being so close to bus and railway links.
Having the former Barony St John hall building can be a problem – we need to make sure it’s wind and watertight, which isn’t always easy in a 131-year-old building – but having the former church building to look after too, always proves to be a challenge.
The church building is 156-years-old and has been derelict, as far as I know, since 2010.
A couple of months ago during Storm Brendan, several parts of our buildings roof were damaged including the overhang roof from the hall building to the church building blew down and needed work on it to repair the damage. Luckily, we had sealed the doors to the church and hall back in November 2019, effectively separating both buildings, so the internal damage was minimal. But last week the Ardrossan coastline was once again battered – this time by Storm Ciara.
Storm Ciara proved to be much stronger than Storm Brendan and although no roofing was blown off our buildings this time, we did get quite severe water ingress into the church building.
Missing roof tiles meant roof leaks above the shore facing windows of the church and these have brought ceiling plasterwork down and sent water falling onto the upper gallery floor….which in turn, has seeped downwards, bringing down more ground floor ceiling plasterwork and creating a huge internal puddle at the main entrance of the church.
It doesn’t look good but at least the main structure of the building is still sound.
When my charity first came to Ardrossan back in 2015, I said I would give ourselves three years to renovate and equip the Barony St John Centre and open up to the public. This was achieved by 2016 and a Feasibility Study recommended that we try to convert the church building into an Events Centre as a secondary source of income for us.
I pledged to try to achieve this by 2020 but, reluctantly, I now have to admit defeat.
For many, this will be sad news but some of you reading this will be smiling now because some of you actively stood in our way, preventing us from developing the church building. But who loses out on this? Is it me? My charity? Or the people of Ardrossan who have lost a fantastic opportunity to increase jobs in the town, increase visitor spend in the town and also lost the chance of a great local venue for live bands, plays and exhibitions right on their doorstep?
Either way, without backing from the Council and the “movers and shakers” of Ardrossan, this dream cannot be turned into a reality – at least not on my watch.
It’s therefore time to face the reality; we will continue to own and improve the Barony St John hall building (our Centre), but it looks like, regrettably, we will have to put the former Barony St. John’s Church building up for sale later this year. Maybe someone else can develop the church into an Events Centre or flats or a dream home on the seafront?
We will however, continue to look into how the hall building can be developed and I will keep you posted of this progress, as well as the final destination of the church building as the year goes on.