Lanark trust unveils trimmed Plan B for Castlebank sawmill

Castlebank Sawmill  (Picture Sarah Peters)
Castlebank Sawmill (Picture Sarah Peters)

Following their bitter disappointment at being rejected for a National Lottery grant last month, volunteers recreating Castlebank Park in Lanark have unveiled a plan B.

Their revised plans are not as ambitious as the originals but would still mean a new lease of life for the dilapidated sawmill building now held by Lanark Community Development Trust.

And although trust chairman Sylvia Russell admits she is “battle-weary” after well over a decade fighting to transform the park after years of neglect, she is optimistic about the chances of success of the new plans, approved by the trust board on Thursday.

With the horticultural centre firmly established, and even approved by the Royal Horticultural Society, and volunteer workers crammed into a tiny shed for coffee breaks, the trust cannot afford to abandon its sawmill plans altogether.

Instead of the £500,000 the project rejected by lottery bosses would have cost, the new plans should come in at around £150,000.

The original plans featured a canopy between the sawmill and the renovated toilet block, but that has been dropped to cut costs.

Plans to revamp the main building remain on the cards, however.

“It is a great big space,” said Sylvia. “The roof, although it looks pretty ropy is actually more or less intact, and the architect does not think it will need too much work.

“The building needs insulation and a new floor.”

There will be a door to the patio, new windows on the other side and a large window and another door on the gable end.

“Inside, there will be office space for the educational gardener and hopefully a project manager, a cloakroom, kitchen and an area with seats and tables, and we are hoping that can be a gallery. If art classes or photo sessions are held, the work can displayed there, with a nice seating area for people to have sandwiches or a bowl of soup.”

There is also interest in holding a dementia cafe there.

The major change is that the building jutting out at the end, which was to have been demolished and replaced with a new building to house a classroom on the same level as the main building, will remain and be restored.

That will mean visitors in wheelchairs will need to leave the sawmill building and follow the outside path round to classroom’s entrance.

“Probably we have halved the cost of it,” said Sylvia.

Leader funding of £93,500 had been promised if the Lotto funding had gone ahead, and although that has been withdrawn, the trust hopes to secure funding from other sources.

“I am optimistic,” said Syliva. “This building is essential, quite apart from it being a total eyesore right now. Everything else is so nice round about it, and it is ghastly. If something is not done, the centre part of the roof is going to cave in.

“I am not giving up. The battle goes on,”

 An Easter ‘eggstravanza’ and daffodil tea is being held at the horticultural centre this Saturday from 2pm. Attractions include an Easter egg hunt.