Friday September 22nd 2023
A former fire station now used as a booming Borders football club’s headquarters is to be reignited as a £400k community hub.
Scottish Borders Council this week granted planning permission to Melrose FC to extend the club’s base, known as The Engine Room, in Gibson Park.
Historically, The Engine Room outbuilding provided storage for the horse-drawn carriage used to pull the town’s fire engine in the early 1900s.
The current premises has been adapted for use by Melrose FC since February 2011 and is used as the club headquarters, and as a storage space, changing room, showers, toilets, and kitchen.
The bid coincided with a 27 per cent increase in the club’s junior and youth playing membership since 2019.
But club chairman Greg Simpson said the vision was not just an improved sporting facility but a community hub that would provide opportunities for a range of groups in the town.
He said: “Obviously for the football club we need new changing rooms but we are also bringing an architectural heritage asset back to public use. We are essentially going to restore it back to its former glory with all the fire station livery.
“Melrose Primary School will use the facility for education and learning and it would also be available to other community groups in the town, for the cubs and guides, obviously it would used during the Melrose 7s but also can be used for parents’ groups, toddlers’ groups, Rotary meetings. It’s not just a sports facility but also a community hub. That’s the vision.
“Since we’ve come back from Covid we have had a huge boost in player numbers, they’ve gone up 27 per cent and we have over 300 players now and the big boom has been in girls football. We are the biggest girls club in the Borders, with 120 players playing in all age groups.
“We are currently not able to give a good welcome because we have this little engine shed with a couple of benches in and it’s not really a changing room with proper facilities or privacy and so we got hold of CSY Architects and we have come up with this plan.
“We did a lot of background work with Scottish Borders Council, the Gibson Park Trust, Melrose Primary School, the tennis club, the rugby club, St Mary’s School, the community council, we went to them all and laid out the plans.
“We are already in discussions with SBC and the Scottish FA for funding and I’ve got a couple of calls to Sports Scotland. Ideally we would complete the building warrant process by early next year and have funding in place by early next year and go to build probably around summer 2024. My target is to have the facility complete by 2025, which is the 30th anniversary of the forming of the club.”
In her report approving the application, SBC’s lead planning officer Julie Hayward, says: “The original fire engine station is a small, traditional sandstone building with large double timber doors in the front elevation and a slate roof. It was built in 1901 to house the horse-drawn fire engine and is of significant architectural and historical merit.
“The proposal includes the repair and retention of the fire engine station, which is welcomed and the use will ensure its future.”
A new video has been produced visualising how the new complex will look can be view below.