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Derelict Cardross seminary is ‘albatross around our neck’, says church

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Church leaders in Scotland have branded Gillespie Kidd & Coia’s A-listed brutalist building an ’albatross around our neck’ after a bid to turn it into a cultural centre collapsed 

The Roman Catholic Church said it had been left in an ‘impossible situation’ over the fate of the former St Peter’s Seminary in Cardross, near Dumbarton, which has been derelict for almost four decades. 

In June, the structure’s owner – Glasgow-based arts organisation NVA (Europe) – was forced to cancel its £10 million restoration project after missing out on critical funding.

The former priest’s training centre, designed by Gillespie Kidd & Coia’s architects Isi Metzstein and Andy MacMillan, opened in 1966 but was deconsecrated in 1980 and fell into ruin.

Now the building is back under the control of reluctant custodian the Archdiocese of Glasgow, which has warned that public money might have to be found to secure its future.

The archdiocese’s director of communications Ronnie Convery told BBC Scotland that after 40 years they were ‘back to scratch’.

He said: ‘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 would literally give it away for nothing but we can’t find anyone to take it off our hands. We can’t sell it, we can’t give it away, we can’t demolish it. We are in a Catch-22 situation.’

In 2011, developer Urban Splash walked away from a Gareth Hoskins-designed transformation of the crumbling masterpiece.

NVA then stepped in, drawing up plans to turn the building into a cultural venue overseen by Avanti Architects and McGinlay Bell and in 2016 staged an audio-visual display using the ruin as a backdrop.

But in June the charity announced its plans to close, saying it had been unable to guarantee the building a ‘viable future’. 

The Scottish government has tasked Historic Environment Scotland with drawing up options for how to save the building, but the report has not yet been made public.

St Peter’s Seminary, which is located in a remote Argyll woodland, was given category A listing by Historic Scotland in 1992. 

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