A MOTION to support the Carrick Centre and Youth Centre project in Maybole was approved at a special meeting of South Ayrshire Council last week.
Councillor Mairi Low, SNP Councillor for Maybole, North Carrick and Coylton has welcomed the decision by South Ayrshire Council to back her motion of support on behalf of Maybole Parish Church and The Carrick Centre to help raise from external sources the 1.2 Million required to complete the project.
The Carrick Centre was initially the brain-child of retired engineer and businessman Bill Miller of Maybole, who helped inspire two local Church of Scotland congregations - West Parish Church and Maybole Parish Church – to take the bold decision to merge congregations, sell their former buildings and use the proceeds to build a new community centre designed for the needs of the 21st Century.
Mr Miller believed the two 19th Century church buildings couldn't meet modern standards and were too expensive to maintain. The sale to property developers almost five years ago, augmented by an additional contribution from the Church of Scotland, yielded a total of 1.2 million all of which was contributed toward the building complex known as the Carrick Centre.
But since that time, Carrick Centre supporters have been struggling to find the additional funds required to realise the project that Cllr Low has described as "facilities desperately wanted by the whole community." An initial Lottery bid was rejected.
Bill Miller described the project's aim: "We want to build a new facility, right in the heart of the town, which will include the parish church and have modern space to accommodate the needs of church groups and local voluntary organisations." He noted Maybole's strong tradition of local churches and voluntary groups working together, with the churches providing halls and facilities that groups used.
Mr Miller continued, "The Carrick Centre, to be built at the Greenside right in the heart of the community, will be a new 21st century facility that will meet the needs of both church and community."
Recently, others in the community have jumped on board – quite literally, as representatives of voluntary organisations in the town, joined congregation members on the board of Carrick Centre Limited, a registered charity and company limited by guarantee, the appropriate legal structure for receiving grants and contributions.
Mr Miller was delighted at approval of the Council's motion of support, which he believes will be crucial as Carrick Centre Ltd seeks the additional funds.
He told the Gazette, "The endorsement by South Ayrshire Council is central to our objectives for Maybole.
"Someone has to set ethical standards for our society," continued the 76 year old Mr Miller as he explained what gives him the energy and drive to see the Carrick Centre become a reality.
"The Church is important and must not be allowed to die. There may be a lot wrong with the 'corporate' side of churches, but it all boils down to 'love thy neighbour' – people are more important than old drafty buildings."
A site adjacent to the train station at Greenside has been purchased and the Council has granted planning consent for construction of a stunning contemporary building designed by architects ARP Lorimer of Ayr, responsible for numerous church and community projects including St Magnus Cathedral in the Orkney Islands, the Catstrand arts centre in New Galloway and St Albans Church Centre in Holborn, London which the Observer newspaper has called "this country's finest and most modern church hall".
Plans for the Carrick Centre provide not only for a new church hall but for an additional two large and two smaller multi-functional halls available for public use, a caf and catering facilities for both commercial and voluntary activities, a small private chapel for the use of the whole community and a separate youth centre on the site. The youth facilities will be run with the help of local youngsters and will provide an activities hall, meeting room, Internet access and a juice bar.
Lighting and heating systems are designed to be both environmentally friendly and cost effective to run. And there will be plenty of much-needed parking as well.
"I am proud to have helped in a small way by raising the profile of the Carrick Centre, within the Council and seeking the Council's support of such a worthy cause," said Cllr. Low, expressing her gratitude to colleagues on the Council who supported the motion, with an amendment that extends the Council's support to similar projects throughout South Ayrshire.
"These facilities could provide many opportunities to deliver a wide range of services to, amongst others, young people, the elderly and the disadvantaged,"
She continued. "The Council will support the Carrick Centre in raising, from external sources, the balance of the capital required to complete the project as quickly as possible."
It is worth noting that the sale of the church buildings could have other substantial benefits for the town as well – it represents a potential injection of another 2.5 million or more into Maybole as developers' plans move forward to transform the listed buildings into contemporary housing while retaining their historic facades.
Meanwhile, Bill Miller is not flagging for a minute as he and his colleagues on the board of Carrick Centre Ltd plan a new bid for Lottery funds, this time with the backing of the Council.
He acknowledged the commitment of everyone involved in the project, and the generosity of the congregations that were willing to give up their much-loved church buildings and help the wider community.
"If Jesus came to Maybole tomorrow, what would he do?," said Mr Miller. "He'd go and see the poorest people and those most in need. It hasn't been an easy ride for the congregation, but that's what they decided to do! It's a huge leap of faith."