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Skateboard plan for old Thurso church to cost £1 million

By Gordon Calder

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A PLAN to transform an old church in Thurso into an indoor skateboard park and studios could cost about £1 million.

The businesswoman behind the project outlined her ideas to members of the town's community council at a virtual meeting on Tuesday night.

Michele Dinger, who is Dutch, and her husband bought the St Andrew's Church in Olrig Street in Thurso last summer and intend to turn into a facility which benefits the local community.

St Andrew's Church in Thurso could become a community asset
St Andrew's Church in Thurso could become a community asset

She wants to create the skateboard park downstairs with studios, which could be used for a range of purposes including art and design, on the upper level. They could be rented out for "a minimal fee." She also aims to incorporate a coffee bar as well as space for a climbing wall and yoga classes.

She acknowledged the project will be daunting but is keen to provide a building which can be used by a range of age groups. Her plans have been estimated to cost around £1 million and will take time to implement.

Mrs Dinger, who runs a small skateboard-type facility at the couple's home at Olrig House, near Castletown, said there is local demand for a skateboard park.

She hopes the initiative could give young people somewhere to go and something to do and help support the creative talent in the area although the building could be used by people of all ages.

Mrs Dinger explained that her plans are at an early stage but she has been in touch with Highland Council and has formed a Community Interest Company (CIC) which is a special type of limited company. It exists to benefit the community rather than private shareholders.

"This project is not about ownership but about responsibility, " she added.

Community council chairman, Ron Gunn, said: "It is fantastic you want to do this but it is some challenge and is going to be quite a task but we wish you well with it and will support you the best we can."

Gill Arrowsmith said it "sounds wonderful" while Innes Morgan - attending his first meeting - stressed that a skateboard facility is needed in Caithness along with a climbing wall.

Alexander Glasgow said there may be bats in the belfry of the church and pointed out they are a protected species.

Mrs Dinger said the building has been empty for a while and needs to be made wind and water tight as a first step.

The community councillors backed the plan in principle and will get regular progress updates from Mrs Dinger as the project develops.

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