Jan 4 2013 Perthshire Advertiser Friday
Long-suffering Perth traders hit out yesterday at the state of St Paul’s Church.
The few remaining shop owners in St Paul’s Square agree that the former kirk has become an unwanted eyesore – and that something has to be done to improve the appearance of the building.
The High Street church has stood empty for around 30 years and there is still no visible sign that the building will be re-opening for any purpose soon.
Scaffolding surrounds the once-proud church, windows have been boarded up and thick vegetation has grown around the property.
Several businesses in St Paul’s Square have already closed down or relocated to elsewhere in the city, while current shop owners say they have to rely on regular customers for trade.
Mary Kerr, owner of Colours hair salon, told The PA: “It’s an absolute eyesore - it’s ridiculous it’s been left this way for so long.
“All my customers complain about the state of the building and nobody will come up this end of the High Street anymore.
“Everywhere else on the High Street looks nice and then you see this. Every one of my clients says the same thing - it’s just an eyesore.
“It was like this when we opened but there were plans to turn the building into a restaurant. Nearly every shop around here has closed down - the shops were always empty.
“The beautiful wee cafe is closed, the others have gone - about all that is left is the music shop and the gift shop.”
Peter Caban, owner of music shop Bandwagon, agreed that shoppers might be put off exploring the square because of the sight of the church.
He fumed yesterday: “It’s in a terrible state - it looks as if it’s crumbling away. And if it becomes dangerous it could be a real problem for us.
“It looks like it might come down at any moment - especially with all this bad weather we’re having.
“It’s not an attractive building for shoppers to look at. Luckily I have specialist customers to keep me going - they know me and they know where I am.
“The building needs a total renovation but I don’t see anyone doing anything with it anytime soon.”
Jenny Paton, owner of gift shop Homestyles, is also frustrated with the lack of progress in renovating the building.
She told The PA: “We were told last year that the plans for an Indian restaurant were still going ahead. There were people in cleaning the bird droppings out of the building and they took the vegetation away.
“But the birds have got back in and the vegetation has grown back so they’ll have to start all over again. We’re tucked away in the corner here and people might be put off our business because the church faces the High Street. Something has to be done soon because the church ruins the whole ambience of the square.”
A Perth and Kinross Council spokeswoman said: “A planning application for a change of use from church to restaurant with ancillary uses at St Paul’s Church, submitted on 11 November 2011, was granted planning consent by the development control committee on 18 January 2012.
“We remain in dialogue with the applicant about the submission of a listed building consent application, which will allow work on the project to move forward.”