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Community / Community takeover of Hillswick Kirk fizzles out

Photo: Church of Scotland.

THE IDEA of a community purchase of the Hillswick Kirk appears to have reached a dead end.

Community group Friends of the Hillswick Kirk conceded that the historic church will now go on the market because there is not the “local will” to proceed with a purchase.

The large kirk, built in 1869, went on the market in March for offers over £40,000 in a move that took some of the local community by surprise.

The Church of Scotland said it was listed at this stage because of its deteriorating condition.

But it was soon removed from the public market to allow a community group to form and work on a possible bid for the building.

The Church of Scotland’s current position is that the building will go back on the market unless there is a community offer in the works.

But the community group said that “despite the strong emotional bonds many of us feel to the Hillswick kirk building, there just isn’t the local will to proceed with a community purchase”.

Group representative Tom Morton said: “The Church of Scotland, in my opinion at least, has handled this whole affair badly – though the Kirk’s legal department has been excellent throughout in all my dealings with them – precise, straightforward and friendly.

“It is sad that this has not been echoed in more public-facing departments and communication generally. The way the building was left to decay reflects poorly on the Kirk, given that it and the land it stands on was gifted for ministry to the people of Northmavine.

“So now it is to be sold, and we can only hope that is bought by someone who will care for it and acknowledge its importance to the people of Northmavine.”

Morton said he wished to thank those who have supported the campaign, especially the Northmavine Community Development Company and architect Suzanne Malcolmson.

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“Anyone interested in seeing the drawings of possible conversion of the kirk into an auditorium and flats should contact Malcolmson Architects in Scalloway,” he said.

The Hillswick Kirk is one of many in Shetland which are set to be sold by the Church of Scotland as it trims its estate in the isles.

The Fetlar Church is currently under offer following a bid from the community, while the Church of Scotland has also been working with groups in Yell, Bigton and Fair Isle.

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