“Almost unchristian” – congregation blows up church

MEMBERS of the community have expressed their disdain at the proposed sale of Gretna’s old church.

Springfield and Gretna Green Parish Councilors were outraged to discover that the church hall and adjacent car park had recently been put up for sale by the Church of Scotland for £90,000.

Leader Isabell Tranter has branded the Church of Scotland’s actions as “unacceptable” and “almost unchristian”.

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

“But lately, the Church’s actions and disinterest in our communities resemble more of a corporate deal.”

CHURCH HALL SERIES. . . Demonstrators gathered in front of the hall on Tuesday

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

She also explained that the lack of accessible parking for users of the nearby Stormont Hall would put them at a disadvantage in attracting new bookings, resulting in a potential loss of business revenue for the hall.

Springfield and Gretna Green Community Asset Trust – with the support of the Parish Council – sent a letter to the Church of Scotland in 2019, well before the church hall was launched, asking if the church would give them a chance to fundraise for the hall was ever put up for sale.

However, members insist they never received a reply.

Ms Tranter added: “The Church of Scotland has not toyed with the Parish Council despite constant attempts to reach out and communicate with them.”

A frustrated Ms. Tranter then contacted MSP Colin Smyth and Council Member Archie Dryburgh to try and resolve the matter. A meeting between them took place on Tuesday.

A COUNCIL IN SESSION. . . Archie Dryburgh and Colin Smythe attend the meeting, which took place Tuesday night

Mr Smyth has written to Church of Scotland leader 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 many opportunities for the wealth manager to raise money but they have not been given them, which I think is grossly unfair.

“All the church has to do is sit down and chat with the community and understand the problems that losing the parking lot would cause.

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

“Everyone accepts that the Church of Scotland is going through a major process of selling many of its churches and halls for lack of use and no one disputes the right to sell the hall.

“It’s just disappointing that the church didn’t first pursue an opportunity for the congregation to buy the concourse and parking lot, rather than simply put it on the open market.

“It looks like the church is looking to make a sudden, quick sale and that clearly doesn’t give the congregation time to put together an offer and secure funding.”

Cllr Dryburgh added he was “quite disappointed” with the Church of Scotland.

He said: “If the community has been using the park all along and they lose access to it, Gretna’s ever-growing economy will decline.

“The uses for Stormont Hall are endless. Dumfries is making a pretty good name for itself and we don’t want smaller communities to be left behind because of the decisions of larger groups.”

Church of Scotland has been asked to comment.

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