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UK News

Historic Scottish church to be transformed into £1 million skatepark

A church in the northernmost part of Scotland is set to be transformed into a giant skatepark after being purchased by a local businesswoman. Michele Dinger purchased St Andrew's Church last summer and has submitted plans to turn it into an activities centre complete with giant skatepark, climbing wall and coffee shop.

Dinger has laid out plans to build the skatepark on the ground level of the building, while various studios will be available to rent upstairs. She is also hoping to include a coffee bar, along with a climbing wall and space to hold yoga classes. Her plans are estimated to cost around £1 million and are still in the early stages.

Dinger - who already runs a small skateboard facility at her home at the nearby Olrig House Country Estate - says she has been in touch with Highland Council and has formed a private company to help administrate the project; the Community Interest Company (CIC) aims to benefit members of the local community rather than private shareholders. 

"This project is not about ownership but about responsibility," she told the John O'Groat Journal.

At a council meeting, community council chairman, Ron Gunn, said the idea was "fantastic", but that it is "some challenge and is going to be quite a task". 

"We wish you well with it and will support you the best we can," he told Dinger. 

Another councillor expressed concern that bats may be present in the belfry of the church, adding that they are a protected species. 

The community councillors have backed the development plans in principle, and will await further updates from Dinger as it progresses.

The church was built by the Free Church back in 1875, and was named the First Free Church. According to historical records, it joined the United Free congregation in 1900, becoming First United Free Church. It later joined the Church of Scotland and was re-named St Andrew's. 

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