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‘Almost un-Christian’ – Community blasts Church

Community fury after congregation plan to sell off church hall

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By Ben Murray
Annan and Eskdale
‘Almost un-Christian’ - Community blasts Church

MEMBERS of the community have expressed their disdain at the proposed sale of Gretna’s Old Church.

Springfield and Gretna Green community councillors were outraged when they found out that the church hall and adjacent car park was recently listed for sale by the Church of Scotland for £90,000.

Chairwoman Isabell Tranter has branded the actions of Church of Scotland as “unacceptable” and “almost un-Christian”.

She said: “In smaller communities such as Gretna or Kirkpatrick Fleming, the church plays a far larger role in bringing communities together.

“But as of late, the actions and lack of interest the church seems to have in our communities is more akin to a corporate business.”

CHURCH HALL ROW. . . Protestors gathered outside the hall on Tuesday

Mrs Tranter insists if the church hall car park – which has been regularly used by Stormont Hall for more than 20 years – is built on then the community will lose a lot from being unable to use the car park and could cause exceptional disruption on busy roads.

She also stated that the lack of accessible parking for nearby Stormont Hall users would cause a disadvantage in the ability to attract new bookings, causing a potential loss of business revenue for the hall.

Springfield and Gretna Green Community Asset Trust – with the support of the community council – sent correspondance to the Church of Scotland in 2019, long before the church hall was put on the market, and asked if the church would give them an opportunity to raise funds if the hall was ever put on sale.

But members insist they never received a response back.

Mrs Tranter added: “The Church of Scotland haven’t played ball with the community council, despite constant attempts to contact and communicate with them.”

A frustrated Mrs Tranter then contacted MSP Colin Smyth and councillor Archie Dryburgh to try and resolve the matter. A meeting between them was held on Tuesday.

A COUNCIL IN MEETING. . . Archie Dryburgh and Colin Smythe attending the meeting that occured on Tuesday evening

Mr Smyth has written to the Moderator of the Church of Scotland Ian Greenshields asking the church to meet with local politicians and community groups to discuss the future of the hall, including access to the car park.

He said: “There are plenty of opportunities for the asset trust to raise money but they haven’t been given them, which I believe to be grossly unfair.

“All the church needs to do is sit down and have a chat with the community, and to understand the problems that losing the car park would cause.

“It’s a shame that the church wasn’t prepared to work with the community.

“Everyone accepts that the Church of Scotland are going through a major process where they are disposing of many of their churches and halls because of a lack of use and no one disputes the right to sell the hall.

“It’s just disappointing that an opportunity for the community to buy the hall and car park rather than simply putting it on the open market wasn’t pursued first by the church.

“It looks as if the church is going for a sudden, quick sale and clearly that doesn’t give the community time to pull together a bid and secure funding.”

Cllr Dryburgh added he’s “pretty disappointed” with the Church of Scotland.

He said: “If the council has used the park the entire time, and they lose access to it, the steadily-growing economy in Gretna will decline.

“The uses for Stormont Hall are innumerable. Dumfries is getting a pretty good name for itself, and we don’t want smaller communities missing out due to the decisions made by larger groups.”

Church of Scotland was contacted for comment.

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