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Midlothian's MP Owen Thompson with Roger Kelly (left) and supporting Penicuik High pupils © Helen Barrington

Final Push for Penicuik Storehouse

The public are being urged to buy shares in a community “Storehouse” to allow it to reach its funding target by the end of the month.

Plans to open a mixed use community shop, bakery, cafe and teaching space on Penicuik’s High Street are entering a crucial seven days, in which a fifteen thousand pound funding gap must be filled to progress.

The proponents of the “Penicuik Storehouse”, the Penicuik Community Alliance, are asking the public to invest in shares ranging from a single for £25 up to £20k for a significant stake in the project. Overall a minimum of £82k must be achieved from the share offer before April 1 to unlock a further £150k Scottish Government grant and an additional £100k social loan, both of which will allow the venture to get off the ground.

Work on the former Nickel and Dime Store at 22 High Street, has already begun to allow the Storehouse to open by the Summer, once funding is secured. Plans drawn up by Lee Boyd Architects show how the large unit will be transformed into a multipurpose space, fronted by a Breadshare Bakery. A café and marketplace will also occupy space on the ground floor; teaching spaces and a community shop, offering reduced price supermarket spares to those on low incomes, will fill the first floor.

Speaking at the share launch back in December, Roger Kelly, convener of the Penicuik Community Alliance, said:

If this is the sort of change you want to see in Penicuik, please look us up online and see how the share offer might work for you. We’re after investors, even those with just £25 to put in, not donations. The objectives may be to provide a worthwhile space for the community and for local food, but this is a commercial project, and we intend to make it work on that basis.

We’re optimistic about the future of Penicuik, and we believe the Storehouse can become an important hub for the local economy, bringing high quality jobs to the town for the long term and supporting the best local food producers. Now we need you to help us make that a reality.

Investors will own shares in the Alliance and can be involved in the actions of the enterprise, also achieving interest payments should the Storehouse turn a sufficient profit. However, it is a long term investment and people are advised not to invest to make a profit but to instead support a local social enterprise.

On top of the share offer, the project has also secured a £150k grant from the Scottish Government’s Community Town Centre Capital Fund. The project was awarded the sum in December alongside twenty other community projects in the country, equating to £1.7m in total. The fund is intended to help revitalise and regenerate Scotland’s struggling towns.

Penicuik First BID’s Eddie Linton-Smith said:

While the economic benefit of the Storehouse project to Penicuik’s town centre is clear to see, there are so many positive social and community aspects that it’s difficult to quantify the enormous boost the town will see as a result.

The £150,000 Scottish Government funding is hugely exciting for Penicuik, but even that is just a means to pave the way to greater things.

Not only will the Storehouse put a very large and very central High Street unit back in use, diversifying Penicuik’s product range and boosting footfall, the social enterprise aspect of the bakery involves local people from all ages and walks of life.

In the past years footfall in Penicuik’s ailing town centre has dwindled as established shops closed under difficult trading conditions. The High Street, once home to a butchers and the Penicuik Co-Operative, has struggled to find occupants for vacant units. Shop owners Scotmid entered a lengthy planning appeal process to overturn a refusal for a hot food takeaway on grounds that there was not an over provision in the town, despite the council and community’s concerns. The grand former Co-Operative unit remains empty seven years on.

However there hopes that the Storehouse project, alongside the extensive upmarket refurbishment of the Railway Tavern can lead to a renaissance in the town centre. In addition to this, Penicuik Shopping Centre may also face redevelopment after being purchased by an ambitious developer who specialises in regeneration.

You can purchase shares in the Penicuik Storehouse online here or at Pen-Y-Coe Press on Bridge Street. No payment will be taken unless the minimum amount of £82,000 is raised. To find out more about the project and read their FAQ’s go to their website or Facebook group.