The first step in their ambitious plans for the community centre was taken this week, when Scottish Borders Council agreed to lease the building to them for 25 years at a rent of £1. Chirnside Development Group, or an organisation established by them, would be responsible for all improvements, repairs, rates and running costs, and part of the lease agreement is that the building will only be used as a community centre.
Handing over responsibility of the centre to a local community group was an easy decision for councillors to make. The report before them said: “The council is increasingly struggling to meet the revenue costs of running the facility.
“If the proposal does not proceed there is a significant risk that the Chirnside Community Centre would be faced with closure because of financial problems and obsolescence affecting the building.”
So when the local development group approached the council with a view to a long term lease to secure the future of the facility, the council were keen to enter negotiations.
East Berwickshire councillor Michael Cook told fellow councillors: “There has been considerable effort locally to push forward with this.”
The council’s community services department will provide financial assistance, £7,868 for the first year the amount decreasing by 20 per cent year on year down to zero, at which point SBC will make savings of £26,000 in property running costs on the building which is valued at £155,000.
A spokesperson for Chirnside Development Group said: “The vision of the organisation is to increase the engagement of individuals and groups in Chirnside, in the development of our building, so that we as a community become better able to meet the needs of local people by offering high quality space for community groups and responsive services that fill gaps in provision in Chirnside.
“The aspiration is for the facility to be a viable busy hub of community activity seven days a week, 12 hours a day, and that that will stimulate social and economic regeneration, reduce inequality and develop local skills and capacity.”
The initial goal is for the centre to be available for a wide variety of community groups and also for entertainment and social events.
This will require the large hall to be upgraded, the kitchen moved and toilet facilities being improved. The footprint of the building will remain the same but a second floor will be added in the main hall.
There is currently a Stage 2 Big Lottery application for lottery grant funding of £250,000 for the project, and the lease will only go ahead once funding is secured.