Church warns it is in impossible situation over seminary ‘albatross’

Aerial shot of the abandoned site of St Peters Seminary that has been abandoned since closing in 1989.
Aerial shot of the abandoned site of St Peters Seminary that has been abandoned since closing in 1989.
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Church leaders say they have been left in an “impossible situation” over the fate of one of Scotland’s most celebrated architectural masterpieces after efforts to turn into a new cultural centre collapsed.

The former St Peter’s Seminary, which has been lying derelict in an Argyll woodland since the late 1980s, has been branded an “albatross” around the neck of the Catholic Church in Scotland.

It has warned that public money will need to be found to secure the future of the building, which was designed by the Glasgow architects Isi Metzstein and Andy MacMillan, and opened in 1966.

Church officials say they are prepared to “give it away for nothing” but have been unable to find anyone willing to take on the challenge of finding a new use for the building.

Glasgow-based arts organisation NVA spent more than a decade working on plans to bring the building, often described as “Scotland’s modernist masterpiece,” back to life as a world-class performance and exhibition centre.

However, despite drawing up plans for a £10 million restoration of St Peter’s, it emerged last June that NVA would be abandoning the project and closing down completely after being turned down for long-term support by arts agency Creative Scotland.

The Scottish Government later tasked the agency Historic Environment Scotland with drawing up viable options for the building’s future, although they are yet to be made public.

Ronnie Convery, communications director at the Archdiocese of Glasgow, told BBC Scotland: “The archdiocese recognises that it has the responsibility to maintain the estate, to keep it secure and provide the proper insurance cover, but as you can imagine it is a huge albatross around our neck.

“We’re literally struck, it’s an impossible position. We can’t sell it, we can’t give it away, we can’t demolish it. We are in a Catch-22 situation. We would literally give it away for nothing but we can’t find anyone to take it off our hands.

“It is a significant building for the nation and probably one that needs public money to survive.”