Merkinch Welfare Hall Punching Well Above its Weight

By Reporter, The HighLand Times, Tuesday July 25 2017

The Minister for Local Government and Housing Kevin Stewart joins the Provost Of Inverness, Helen Carmichael and Inverness Boxing Club Coach Laurie Redfearn in the boxing ring as part of his tour of the refurbished building.

The Provost of Inverness was at Merkinch Welfare Hall earlier today (Tuesday 25 July) to welcome the Minister for Local Government and Housing Kevin Stewart to what is now the home of the Inverness City Boxing Club and Merkinch Partnership.

The Minister met the project team behind the £1.2m restoration, representatives from Merkinch Partnership, Merkinch Enterprise and the funders before being taken on a tour of the restored Hall, meeting members of Inverness City Boxing Club, volunteers and people from local community groups.

The Merkinch Welfare Hall was originally built in 1914.

Over a hundred years later in 2017, it has successfully undergone an ambitious community-led restoration project.

The project has restored the building to its former glory, creating a gym and changing rooms on the ground floor, used by the City Boxing Club, and Merkinch Partnership, a local charity providing community support, on the first floor.

The roots of the project date back to December 2005 when the Merkinch Welfare Hall Trust acquired the building on behalf of the local community.

By this time the building was disused and in very poor condition, deteriorating rapidly as a result of extensive water penetration.

Thanks to the prior intervention of Highland Council, the Hall was protected from demolition by a category C listing.

Shortly thereafter it was put on the Buildings at Risk Register for Scotland. 

In 2008 a feasibility study was commissioned by the Highland Buildings Preservation Trust to find a new use for the derelict hall.

In 2012 the Trust secured funding to undertake emergency works to erect a structural scaffold as a holding measure, to prevent the roof collapsing.

Finally, in 2014 Merkinch Welfare Hall was acquired by Merkinch Enterprise who fronted the successful application to the Heritage Lottery Fund.

The Highland Council was successful in obtaining a £350,000 Regeneration Capital Grant Fund grant from the Scottish Government.

This in turn was awarded to Merkinch Enterprise as part of the overall funding package to realise the restoration of the listed building. 

Funding for the £1.2m project has come from the Heritage Lottery Fund, Inverness City Heritage Trust, The Highland Council, The Scottish Government, Highlands and Islands Enterprise, Robertson Trust, Maple Trust and the Architectural Heritage Fund.

Provost Helen Carmichael said:

“The team behind the project has done so well so the visit today was a great opportunity for them to highlight all the work involved and to take the Minister on a tour so he could see for himself the incredible transformation and meet some of the people already benefiting from the well-maintained facilities.

“This project has not only brought a significant building back into use but has breathed new life into this area of the Inverness by making a positive contribution to the local community.

“It complements the rest of the regeneration work the Council and partners are doing across the city centre.”

Minister for Local Government, Kevin Stewart, said:

“Our Regeneration Capital Grant Fund is having an impact all across Scotland, and the restoration of Merkinch Welfare Hall is a great example of how our funding is benefitting local communities.

“This multi-use facility is set to be a great resource for the people of Inverness for generations to come.”

Terry Ellison, Manager of Merkinch Enterprise added:

“I am proud to have been involved in bringing the Welfare Hall back to its former glory and know that it will serve the community well for many years to come.”



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