Hope fading for Rothesay’s West Church?

Interested members of the community gathered at the West Church in Argyle Street with Sarah MacKinnon from Strathclyde Building Preservation Trust to discuss the building's future.
Interested members of the community gathered at the West Church in Argyle Street with Sarah MacKinnon from Strathclyde Building Preservation Trust to discuss the building's future.

The future of the former West Church in Argyle Street remains uncertain following a meeting of island residents keen to save the building.

Organised by Paul Duffy, Monday’s meeting welcomed over 20 members of the public, all of whom had an interest in the building, which Argyll and Bute Council is due to demolish by the end of the year on public safety grounds.

Paul told those present: “I’m not here with a plan, but I wanted to get people together who were interested to see if there was a way to move forward.

“Unless we come up with something solid by the end of the week, I think the council has given us as much leeway as they can in terms of finding an alternative.

“If there are solid alternatives it might lead us down a different route for public safety, but it all boils down to cost at the end of the day.”

One possible solution which the group kept coming back to was an idea from Scott Robertson, which The Buteman reported on back in May of this year, that the church be converted into an enclosed garden space - inspired by the Christchurch Greyfriars Rose Garden in the City of London, which was created within the walls of a former church which had been largely destroyed by German bombs during the Second World War.

Allison Harley commented: “I don’t see why the garden idea couldn’t be married up with some sort of memorial.

“We see a lot of benches around the town dedicated to people. What if people paid for the plaques - that could be a way for the garden to be sustainable.”

The issue of sustainability was one of Paul’s main concerns. “I think the problem is who takes on the responsibility for keeping the building safe.

“I love the idea, and in concept it’s fantastic, but without an owner it’d mean a community group would need to take on the cost, etc., and whether people would be willing to do that seems less likely.

“[Funders] would look for evidence of sustainable use, so in terms of that that’d be the big issue.”

* Read the full report in this week’s Buteman - on sale from Thursday, September 25.