The Fisherrow Centre Redevelopment Project


Building owner/client:

The Fisherrow Centre

Local Authority Area:

East Lothian

Nominating Body:

The Fisherrow Trust, Chairperson Alan Hay

Project Description

The proposed project is the refurbishment of The Fisherrow Centre, a community centre based in Musselburgh town centre which provides a range of social, welfare and learning opportunities for the local community. It also provides low cost office accommodation for local charities including Fisherrow community nursery school, Borders Scrap Store recycling project and a learning hub for adults with learning disabilities. The Centre is managed by The Fisherrow Trust, a company limited by guarantee and registered charity, in partnership with East Lothian Council who provide staffing for day-to-day operation and the development of the community programme. The Centre is based in two buildings that together formed the Fisherrow School. The oldest building was built in 1876 and the annexe was built in 1927. The buildings served as a school until 1958. Within the buildings are spaces of considerable architectural and historical value which reflect the building’s original purpose. Following the school’s closure, the buildings served as an annexe to Musselburgh Grammar school until the 1970s when it came under the ownership of Lothian Regional Council and was managed in partnership with the Fisherrow Community Centre Association, a voluntary management committee. In 1997 the buildings were targeted for closure and demolition due to their physical deterioration and high maintenance costs. Following a widespread campaign by the local community to save the buildings, a feasibility study was commissioned, funded by the Coalfields Regeneration Trust, which concluded that the buildings could be refurbished rather than demolished to provide a vital community resource whilst also preserving an important aspect of Musselburgh’s heritage. As a result of the study, East Lothian Council agreed to lease the building to the newly formed Fisherrow Trust to manage the Centre on a financially sustainable basis with income generated from the rental of office space and surplus income being reinvested into the refurbishment and redevelopment of the building. Since the formation of The Fisherrow Trust in 2006 over £400,000 has been raised from local fundraising events and grant applications towards the refurbishment of the exterior and interior of the building. Until 2012, a large section of the oldest building remained derelict. The first phase of the project focussed on the exterior of the buildings and included major window and roof refurbishment. The second phase concentrated on the interior of the buildings and included the following works: installation of a gas central heating system, the refurbishment of the derelict wing of the oldest building to create new community rooms, a function room, toilets and a kitchen and the installation of a lift. Within the annexe building, the gym hall and toilets have been refurbished and work has been undertaken to re-surface and decorate the playground which is accessed daily by The Fisherrow Nursery. In 2015, the Musselburgh Rotary club contributed garden planters which have helped introduce greenery and nature play into an area which is a relatively built up area. Most recently, the Charity enable has worked with volunteers to decorate some benches and planters to brighten the outdoor areas.

Supporting Statement

This year, 2016, is the 10th Anniversary of the formation of The Fisherrow Trust and the beginning of The Fisherrow Centre’s Re-development Project. It has been a hugely ambitious project which has transformed an important historical building which was falling into disrepair into a busy, vibrant community centre which is a hub of learning and creativity where all sections of the community can meet together. The Centre footfall is approximately 1500 people per week and continues to rise each year. There are over 50 community group activities at the Centre each week, approximately 40 local organisations regularly hire rooms for events, training, public consultations and exhibitions. There are now 8 local charities based in the building that provide support services to the local community which is double the number of organisations based at the Centre in 2006. The project presented a number of challenges at its outset with one of the key ones being the strong desire to preserve the character and history of the buildings whilst taking into account the needs of Centre users. This includes members of the public attending community activities, tenant organisations and organisations who hire rooms for training and conference purposes. The Centre had to provide a welcoming, accessible environment that would meet the needs of all these customer groups. This was achieved by creating a number of modern meeting rooms of varied sizes in the disused section of the building whilst preserving many of the original fittings, woodwork and structural character of the Fisherrow School. Other areas of the Centre have retained more of their original character as former school rooms and offer a warm, bright and welcoming environment for community groups and tenant organisations. A further key challenge which has had to be addressed concerned the installation of heating to the buildings. Prior to this, the Centre was inadequately heated with a combination of storage and plug-in electrical heaters. The installation of gas central heating transformed the environment and resulted in the return of some community groups who had been forced to find an alternative warmer meeting place. The heating has, however, been very costly. In an effort to reduce this, ceilings in some corridors and rooms have been lowered. The Trust is currently sourcing funding to purchase a new central heating control system which will be more efficient and cost effective. Another key challenge concerns the scale and layout of The Fisherrow Centre building which was originally designed as a school. The Centre covers a gross area of 2,960 square metres spread over two buildings and two floors in each building. There are over 40 individual rooms, 5 kitchens and 4 staircases, 2 car parks at the front and rear of the building each with its own entrance. Trustees have recently had to address issues of signage and direction for Centre users due to the increasing number of visitors unfamiliar with the building. A new user-friendly room numbering system has been introduced and colour coded maps are being trialled.