Penicuik project refuses to shut up shop

Board members Neville Suttle,Convener Roger Kelly and Derek Rosie of The Storehouse.
Board members Neville Suttle,Convener Roger Kelly and Derek Rosie of The Storehouse.

The Penicuik Storehouse project has vowed to fight on despite a second EGM in as many months revealing funds have all but dried up.

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 last summer in the old Nickel and Dime store on the High Street.

At the EGM last week board members were told that the already worrying financial plight of the project was worse than first feared, with almost all the £255,000 raised now gone despite the shop still not opening.

However, with a new committee now in place, Penicuik Storehouse director Roger Kelly remains defiant. He said: “We are determined not to let this project go and I’m glad to see that people have rallied round.

“It was a packed meeting last week and it was very positive when it could easily have been something else. Our outside funders were reassured greatly by the meeting.

“We were beginning to get into difficult waters when people left the committee but that’s sorted now.

“Now we are on a much better footing to look forward and complete our project, so I remain optimistic.

“And we have been tremendously heartened by the support from Midlothian Council, in the last week it has been incredible.”

Roger said the building’s owners Scotmid now looking at the possibility of selling the property instead of leasing opened up new opportunities, adding: “We have to get the principle approval which should be do-able and then 90 per cent funding from the Scottish Land Fund would follow.

“That’s a positive step and also our major lender Social Investment Scotland is now content with the financial picture. We are working again on a new business plan and as a result of that we will be seeking new funding from respective funders so we can complete the building as fast as we can.

“The main thing we have to do to bring the whole building into operation is bring in a fire escape. We have figures for that and a design has been drawn up, so that’s all quite optimistic.”

The £255,000 spent on the project had been 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.

Despite the hold-ups, Roger explained that most of the funders were satisfied, adding: “We are still in contact with the EU Social Innovation Fund who haven’t given us an answer but one way or another we are moving forward. When we open there will be nothing quite like this in Scotland.”