Whitehaugh Barracks

A proposal to turn an ex-army barracks into a community hub and rehearsal space has received funding from Renfrewshire Council.

Paisley Opera has been awarded £6,700 from the council’s Community Empowerment Fund to carry out a commercial building survey, community consultation and develop a business plan for the former Whitehaugh Barracks in the East End of Paisley.

Whitehaugh Barracks

The group, which currently rehearses in church halls across Paisley, launched two years ago with the aim of introducing opera music to people who would not normally listen to it. It now has over 50 members in its community chorus and is working with local schools to start a children’s chorus.

Pat Kelly, Treasurer of Paisley Opera, said: “Having this facility in the East End of Paisley would be fabulous for us.

“We’ve been successful at getting people to sing with us over the last couple of years, we’ve generates a fair amount of interest and our two full-scale performances have been very well received and attended. What we need now is a space where we can rehearse.”

Paisley Opera now intends to carry out a commercial building survey to check the building is suitable for their purposes before consulting with the community on their plans for the ex-barracks. The group will also have to apply for a Community Asset Transfer for the plans to go ahead.

whitehaugh barracks

Pat added: “We don’t want this building for ourselves, we want it to be a facility for people of all ages in the area.

“We want to carry out a community consultation to see what the people of Paisley really want to do with this building and whether they support our ideas. We’ve got a list of what we think people would like but, at the end of the day, it’s the community that will decide what goes in there. We have the expertise in-house to manage the building but we’ll be guided by what the community want to do with it.

“We are very excited about the project, it’s perfect for our purposes. If configured properly, it could be a very welcoming place.”

The £1.5million Community Empowerment Fund was set up in 2018 and provides grants to community groups that want to take over ownership and the running of a publicly owned building or piece of land in their local area through Community Asset Transfer. It is currently in its sixth round of funding, with applications to the seventh round of the fund closing on Tuesday 3 September 2019.

Councillor Marie McGurk, convener of Renfrewshire Council’s Communities, Housing & Planning Policy Board, said: “I’m delighted Paisley Opera has received this funding from the Community Empowerment Fund.

“The work the group is doing to introduce children and adults in Renfrewshire to opera music is fantastic. This money will allow them to expand their work while also creating a new hub that will make a difference to the lives of local people in Paisley’s East End.”

Paisley Opera was not the only group to receive money in the latest round of the Community Empowerment Fund. The STAR Project also received £20,000 to build a labyrinth in Fountain Gardens in Paisley, while the 18th Paisley & District (Coats) Scout Group and Foxbar Community Garden & Environmental Projects Group were each awarded £10,000 to carry out feasibility studies into new community facilities in Foxbar.

To find out how to apply to the Community Empowerment Fund, visit http://www.renfrewshire.gov.uk/CommunityEmpowermentFund. If you want to find out more about the fund or you have an idea you would like to discuss before applying, contact Kellie Miller, Community Empowerment Lead, on 0141 618 3920.