There are hundreds of churches closing down – why should we save Coats Memorial

Sadly, there are many churches falling into disuse and disrepair but Coats Memorial is no ordinary church building.  Often referred to as the “Baptist Cathedral of Europe”, Coats Memorial is a magnificent and imposing building which was built to exacting standards by skilled craftsmen with no expense spared.  The Coats Memorial Preservation Trust feel that it would be a tragedy if this fine building was lost to the town of Paisley.

Even if enough money is raised to save the building now how will the recurring costs be met year after year so that we can be sure that the project is sustainable?

There is already a tenant lined up who will guarantee the rent for at least five years and all rental income will go towards maintenance.

Will the money raised be enough to fully restore the building?

No, the money raised will be used for the most pressing repairs and for the conversion of the building into a multipurpose venue.  Future rent payments will be used to maintain the building.

What is the current position around ownership of Thomas Coats Memorial? 

Currently, the building is owned by four Church Trustees under the terms of a Trust Deed established in 1925.  The current Trustees are all elderly members of the (now disbanded) congregation and they are working hard to find a way of preserving the building for future generations to enjoy.

So how does the Coats Memorial Preservation Trust fit in?

The Coats Memorial Preservation Trust was formed to find a new life for the building. If the proposal is found to be acceptable to the current Church Trustees they will sign the building over to the new Trust.

Will the new Trust members be paid?

No, they all work on a voluntary basis.

Who are the people behind the Coats Memorial Preservation Trust?

The trustees are;

Ian Henderson – MD of Henderson Properties Ltd

Ken McDonald – Owner of Houston Menswear

Tom Johnstone – Chairman, Renfrewshire Chamber of Commerce

Sandy Stoddart – Queen’s Sculptor in Ordinary in Scotland

Matt Hillin OBE

Rhona Brown             

Advisors are;

David Nairn – Partner Milne Craig Accountants

Graeme McGowan – Partner MSM Solicitors

George Adam – MSP

David McCartney – Parliamentary and Constituency Manager

Lorraine Camero – Provost of Paisley

Donna Vallance – UWS

Bob McIntyre – Current Church Trustee

Allan Driver – Current Church Trustee

I heard that a potential tenant you are speaking about is one of the Trustees – is that true? 

Yes. Ian Henderson was approached and asked if he could think of any future use of the building. He came up with the idea for a multi-purpose venue which would generate sufficient revenues to pay enough rent to maintain the building. 

Are you setting up this fundraising to make a profit? 

No. The Trustees are obliged to identify the best use and most sustainable future for the building and they will consider all proposals. All funds raised will spent on the building. The current offer in relation to the future operation of the building is to ensure there is ongoing income for the Trust to meet future maintenance costs for the building if the fundraising target is met.  If someone makes a better proposal in relation to the future operation of the building it will be selected on merit and there will be full visibility of the process and transparency around the operator selection.

Do you think that you can get £1.5 million donated by local people in 100 days? 

No and we don’t need all the money from local people. We have part of the finances needed as a contribution from legacy funding and we will be casting the net far and wide. We are already in talks with several people overseas. The money from Paisley Buddies is very important and equally important is the desire of local people to ensure that the building is preserved.

What about grant money or some support from Renfrewshire Council? 

We had an initial application to the Heritage Lottery Fund rejected but we intend to have further discussions with them.  We have asked for financial support from Renfrewshire Council who are currently considering our application.

The target of £1.5 million to convert the building seems very low when you consider that the Council is spending more than £20 million on an internal refurbishment of the Town Hall. Are you sure that the works can be done within this budget?

The proposal to save the building has been specified and costed. With careful use of funds and by using local contractors we are sure that we can get the doors open within budget.

OK but money must have been spent by Ian Henderson on surveys and designs and the like. If someone else’s proposal is accepted will he not be out of pocket? 

No. All the surveys and designs are available free of charge to anyone making a proposal for the building and any successful bidder will be expected to compensate Ian for his hard costs to date which do not include any cost of time. To date costs total £23,828.83 including vat.

What makes you think that a multi-purpose venue will be well used? 

We have done our homework and the key is to aim for as many activities as possible and have the building in almost constant use. The Business Plan includes weddings, wedding receptions, live music performances, theatre, ballet, opera, specialist cinema, banquets and conferencing.

That all sounds good but have you tested the market? 

Yes, we have had meetings with potential users and all of the feedback has been very positive. We are confident that we will achieve income projections so long as a high quality offer for space, food and beverage is available within a reasonably priced tariff.

I heard that the Town Hall and the Arts Centre are due to close for a few years – how will that effect your plans?

First and foremost we will be able to provide a venue when otherwise there would be none. Also, it will help us to establish the venue and sales turnover during the first two years which are often the hardest. We don’t see Coats as a rival to the Town Hall and Arts Centre, rather they will all help establish the town as having a lot to offer. 

If all goes to plan with your fundraising what is the timeframe from there? 

We would aim to be on site within three months and the works programme on site will be between six and nine months.

Will I receive anything in return for a donation? 

Nothing tangible because every pound we raise will be used for the building.  We hope that donors will gain great satisfaction from knowing they have helped save an iconic building from decay and dereliction.

How can I donate?

Please visit our JustGiving page: https://www.justgiving.com/campaign/100daystosavecoatsmemorial 

Can I donate by mobile?

Yes, you can text 70070 using the code TCMC19 to donate anything up to a maximum of £10. To donate more than £10 please visit our JustGiving page: https://www.justgiving.com/campaign/100daystosavecoatsmemorial 

What is Gift Aid and will it cost me anything?

Gift Aid is a 25% contribution made by government on top of any money that you donate and it does not cost you anything.

Where can I find out how much money is being raised?

Our website is updated with this information every Monday.

What happens to my contribution if the overall fund-raising campaign is not successful – will contributions be repaid?

We are confident that we will be successful in our efforts to raise the necessary funds to deliver a venue for Paisley. However, if there are insufficient funds raised to allow the full conversion works to proceed, then funds raised will be spent on carrying out essential maintenance to the building in co-operation with the existing trustees.