Is the end in store for community project?

The old Nickel and Dime store in Penicuik High Street.
The old Nickel and Dime store in Penicuik High Street.

Community business project Penicuik Storehouse held a special meeting on Monday amid concerns the scheme is about to run out of money.

Launched in December 2015 by The Penicuik Community Alliance, the project had planned to open a community bakery, café, kitchen, food store and indoor social supermarket in the old Nickel and Dime store on the High Street.

Originally due to open last summer, the project is losing £5000 every month on wages and rent, leaving just £28,000 from the £255,000 raised through a share offer, which brought in £105,000 of an expected £175,000, and £150,000 from the Scottish Government’s Town Centre Communities Capital Fund.

The report from the extraordinary general meeeting (EGM) admits the project will “run out of cash in a few months”, with problems in the building including asbestos and fire exits holding up the opening.

A multi-purpose pop-up shop in the front of the Storehouse has been proposed to gain income and generate interest.

One shareholder, who didn’t want to be named, said: “This EGM is the first I have heard that we are astonishingly going to run out of money. I would have thought the problems mentioned are pretty much things that would have been costed at the beginning.

“Where are we going to be in a few weeks time, will we have a front of house shop selling vegetables? That’s not what we were sold.

“It’s very disappointing considering how much shareholders’ money and public money has went into this.

“It’s beginning to sound like an all too familiar tale of a community project hitting the rails despite the best intentions. I worry now that people will ask for their money back but we will see how it goes.”

Roger Kelly, Penicuik Storehouse director, said: “A lot of the things were costed but some of the issues we have come up against are more difficult to resolve than they seemed at first.

“We have been going as fast as we can to get the store open but we have a cash flow problem and we are being as open and transparent as possible. We are paying out rent and salaries but we are not getting anything back, so we are looking very carefully at our finances.

“We might have to have a few months of a temporary arrangement so we can get some business into the building. We will at least be able to show people what have done in the building and the potential for more.”

Mr Kelly added that the share scheme would be re-launched immediately.