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An anonymous angel has stepped in after the the Church of Scotland put the historic Kilmartin Church and Glebe Field up for sale, with an offer to purchase Kilmartin Church as a holding position until a newly established community initiative makes a decision whether or not to buy it for the community.
The sale risked the church being bought for housing. However, a good friend of the museum has stepped forward with the offer and agreed to allow Dunadd Community Enterprise time to explore the possibility of buying the building and make a final decision that any community use has the full support of its members and is sustainable.
Since the Church of Scotland moved to its new premises in Kilmartin, it has been its intention to sell Kilmartin Church and the Glebe, as well as the churches in Ford, Kilmichael Glassary and Kilmichael of Inverlussa. Kilmartin Museum has been in discussions with the Church of Scotland about buying the Glebe to use for their education programmes, and to develop overflow parking in a small area to accommodate the extra visitors expected when the redeveloped museum opens in 2021.
At the recent AGM, members of Dunadd Community Enterprise supported the committee to go ahead with seeking funding to commission a full feasibility study that would explore sustainable community use of the building. Funds would be required to buy, renovate and convert the church.
There have been lots of ideas and discussion, but careful business planning is required to ensure whatever the church is used for would attract grant funding and crucially, would be sustainable in the long term. This will take some time and funding needs to be sought for a feasibility study in the first instance, so Dunadd Community Enterprise could not currently buy the church.
Kilmartin Museum already has funding in place to purchase the Glebe Field, and they need to go ahead with this to keep to their redevelopment project timescales. However, the benefactor has said it will be possible to maintain public access to the historic stones housed in the church and that the museum can also use the building while the building work required during the redevelopment project is taking place.
Dr Sharon Webb, museum director said: ‘It would have been a real shame if the church and the historic stones had become inaccessible, and this decision by the church head office could have presented real difficulties to both the museum and community enterprise, so it’s great that a temporary solution has been found. It’s wonderful that there are such generous and philanthropic people who want to make a difference to both the museum and the local community.’
David Bracken, chairman of the Dunadd Community Enterprise, added: ‘This gives us the time we need to explore all the possibilities and make sure that if we do go ahead and raise funds to buy the church, it’s the right thing for the community now, and for future generations.’
Negotiations between the Church of Scotland head office and the anonymous buyer are ongoing.