THE threat of closure has been lifted from the monastery which has been the sole Scottish outpost of a small group of monks for almost 150 years.
• A monastery that faced closure has been saved as a housing scheme is to be built on the grounds of St Mary’s Monastery
• The money made from the estate will be used to bankroll the restoration of the monastery
Members of Perth and Kinross Council’s planning committee yesterday gave the go-ahead for a housing scheme in the fields adjoining St Mary’s Monastery in Perth, which will be used to bankroll a £2 million scheme to restore the outpost of the Roman Catholic Redemptorist Order.
In April last year a previous application, submitted in tandem with private housing developer Cala, was refused on the casting vote of the chairman of the development management committee.
But yesterday the committee chairman, Tom Gray, tabled an amendment that the plans to build 19 luxury houses on Kinnoull Hill, overlooking Perth, should be approved – despite a recommendation by planning officials that the development should be rejected.
Mr Gray said the scheme would have minimal impact on an area of great landscape value on Kinnoull Hill. The amendment was approved by nine votes to four.
The monks were celebrating after the crucial vote, which has guaranteed a future for the B-listed neo-gothic building.
Father Gerry Mulligan, a spokesman for the monastery, said: “Everyone is absolutely delighted about this news. It means we will get the funding now which will secure the future of the monastery for years to come.” He added: “We hope to start the work in the New Year. I am sure we will work something out with the developers so we don’t have to wait until every house is sold. We are facing a winter with an unsatisfactory and faulty heating system. “Plumbing,
toilets and other facilities also all need to be updated, so this is fantastic news.”
The charitable trust, which is responsible for the operation of St Mary’s Monastery, had warned the council in a planning statement: “Should planning permission be refused, St Mary’s will close as a retreat and monastery.
“Without significant financial investment to enable the refurbishment of the internal fabric of the existing building to make it fit for purpose and prevent further deterioration and decay, the trustees will have to vacate the property.”
The latest application had attracted 482 letters of support and 95 letters of objection. Some of the objectors claimed the order could afford the £2m needed to upgrade the monastery without developing a greenfield site in an area classed as being of great landscape value.
Nick Brian, the council’s development quality manager, had also recommended refusal.
The congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer – the Redemptorists – is a missionary society which was founded in 1730 in Italy by St Alphonsus Liguori. The monks first arrived in Britain in 1843. St Mary’s was the first monastery to be opened in Scotland since the Reformation.