Hub demolition plan after trust hit by £1.8m bill

Andy Wright, Myriam Baete and Michael Irelandd
Andy Wright, Myriam Baete and Michael Ireland outside the Peebles Community Trust building [BBC]

Community leaders in Peebles are proposing to knock down their town-centre hub rather than face a £1.8m repairs bill.

Peebles Community Trust (PCT) bought the former church and ex-servicemen's club premises in 2019 for £200,000.

Despite re-roofing the building, upgrading the electrics and installing insulation, further problems, including asbestos, dry-rot and rising damp, have been discovered.

Michael Ireland, chair of PCT, said: "I'm not ashamed of our investment in the building, but it is sensible to draw a line in the sand."

Popular venue

Michael Ireland, chair of Peebles Community Trust
Michael Ireland, chair of Peebles Community Trust [BBC]

Peebles Ex-Servicemen's Club bought the Templars Hall on School Brae just after their formation in 1922.

The building was considerably expanded during the late 1960s to cater for its increasing membership, and throughout the 70s and 80s it was regarded as one of the busiest venues in the Scottish Borders.

Following the club's closure, a buy-out by the PCT attracted support from several funding providers.

Today the building is home to the Peebles Ex-Servicemen's Pipe Band, a Men's Shed, the PCT's re-use sales room, and several other community organisations.

Mr Ireland added: "We have invested a lot of public money in the existing building and I know that us now wanting to demolish it may be a problem for some people.

"But without the investment we have made so far, this building would be derelict, and a real eye-sore.

"While a lot of people will have emotional ties with the building, it isn't in keeping with the area, and our proposals provide the opportunity to have a building that does befit this conservation area."

The former Ex Servicemen's Club in Peebles
It is estimated that around £1.8m would need to be spent on repairing and refurbishing the town centre building [BBC]

It was during last year when plans were taking shape for installing a new heating and ventilation system, that additional problems around the building were identified.

Along with the new heating costs of £400,000, bills for the additional work came to just over £1.4m.

An indicative cost for demolition and rebuilding of £1.86m was provided by a separate contractor.

PCT director Andy Wright said: "We have managed to keep the lights on over the past five years, but it has already required a lot of repair work.

"The directors have now stepped back to try to find a better solution.

"We are now proposing to demolish the building and develop a new School Brae hub that is fit for the community and will remain fit for the next 50 years."

Andy Wright from Peebles Community Trust
Andy Wright from Peebles Community Trust [BBC]

Several options have been considered since the repair bill landed last year; including the closing up and selling of the building, handing it over to Scottish Borders Council, or creating a green space following demolition.

But the need for a hub is leading the PCT down the road of rebuilding.

If the demolition and rebuild plans win public approval, the PCT directors hope to draw up a development brief and launch an architectural design competition later this year.

Mr Wright added: "While it has its structural challenges and doesn't look attractive, this is still a building that has a place in the community's hearts, so we are aware how sensitive the demolition proposals will be.

"However, so far the reaction has been entirely positive."

An artist's impression of how the new building could look
An artist's impression of how the new building could look [BBC]

The PCT will hold an extraordinary meeting before the summer to assess public feedback.

They will then explore funding options for the project at the same time as launch the design competition.

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