The High Street Store


Building owner/client:

The High Street Store

Architect or lead designer:

Sundeep Salins

Local Authority Area:

Perth & Kinross

Nominating Body:

Coupar Angus and Bedochy Community Council

Project Description

The buildings at The Cross, a small square at the heart of Coupar Angus, were mostly renovated thanks to a grant from the Townscape Heritage Initiative a decade ago. But one small building, Meg’s Cafe, was left undeveloped and unloved. And then, in 2015, the Scottish Government launched its Town Centre Community Capital fund and so the local development trust, Forward Coupar Angus (FCA), applied. As FCA said in its application … ‘Occasionally circumstances conspire in a way which can benefit all. The small, award winning Perthshire town of Coupar Angus would benefit from a community shop. Forward Coupar Angus is developing a set of businesses which would use the shop as a retail outlet. The owner of the last remaining undeveloped building at The Cross, in the centre of Coupar Angus, has offered the property for sale to FCA. A relatively small, but significant proportion of the funds required to purchase the property have been pledged by individuals and organisations in the town, but the owner is keen to sell quickly and the remaining funds are needed urgently. Then the Town Centre Community Capital Fund is launched. Bring all these things together and by the end of March 2016 Coupar Angus could have its own thriving Community Shop at The Cross, the physical, social and cultural hub of the town. Currently the attractive nature of The Cross is significantly marred by the empty semi-derelict and vacant Meg’s Cafe, the very property that FCA wishes to purchase. Redevelopment of this property would be the last piece in the modernisation of the town centre jigsaw. Its redevelopment for the benefit of the community would be a unique opportunity that cannot repeated.’ Amazingly the project was funded, FCA bought the building, local architect Sundeep Salins was appointed to manage the project and local tradesmen were employed to upgrade the building. By June 2016 the town had a new ‘High Street Store’ and it was opened by the original Meg, local resident Margaret Whyte. Our new store is dedicated to selling local products. We have vegetables from the FCA community garden and crafts from the local arts and crafts group ‘Showcase’. And since June 2016 the store has been run by a willing, enthusiastic and growing band of volunteers. Now FCA have offices to operate from and the confidence to start other building renovation projects in the town. A number of local artists and craft workers, some exhibiting their works for the first time, have a ‘home’ from which to sell their projects. And the volunteers in the community garden have the fun of seeing people enjoy the ‘fruits’ of their work.

Supporting Statement

The Meg’s Cafe project has been nominated because it meets all of the criteria listed in the guidance notes. It is a small building but its negative impact on a town, most of whose prominent buildings had been beautifully restored, was disproportionate. A local group of handymen, helped by a local artist, and young people form a local church youth group, did their best to beautify the building and to reduce its impact as an eyesore. But, if you looked closely, it was very apparent that the underlying building was unloved. Meg’s Cafe is small, indeed it is very small. Our architect worked very hard to ensure that we maximised the use of space in the building, we obeyed all the building regulations, that our use of electricity to heat and light the building would be a minimum, that we had a comfortable and secure office for the trust and that our inevitable overspend was minimised. All of these were achieved in the final design. From the award of the grant to the opening of the Store took less than 5 months. Forward Coupar Angus has been very gratified by the support and involvement from the local community. In many community surveys, in the last decade, Meg’s Cafe was always identified as a problem in the town. I doubt that anyone expected Forward Coupar Angus, which had no experience of renovation projects, to pick up the project, run with it and deliver an attractive entity to the town. The activities of FCA have certain been rewarded by the enthusiasm of the volunteers for the Store and for the local people using it. FCA is always looking for new uses for the Store and recently it became the focus of distribution of free food from the Tesco ‘FairShare’ scheme. We are currently looking to use the store to allow residents to sell vintage clothes on certain, special days. The achievement of the project is clear for all to see. The difficulties faced were first, convincing the owner to sell the property to the trust, that took around 2 years. Next raising the funds for the project though, as described in the ‘Summary of the Project’ FCA had a huge slice of luck. However, the TCCCA initiative was oversubscribed around 8 fold so getting the grant was quite an achievement. And finally fitting everything that we wanted into a tiny space was a real challenge. But the building project was delivered by a group of trustees with no experience of building renovation and our High Street Store is now being enjoyed by volunteers, residents in the town and visitors to Coupar Angus.