A BARRHEAD charity is set to be granted a 30-year lease for the refurbished Cowan Park gate lodge.

Include Me 2 Club would pay a rent of £1 per year and run a community hub, with cafe, meeting space and bike hire, from the lodge if the proposal is agreed.

East Renfrewshire Council’s cabinet has been recommended to approve the deal, which follows a £1.2m investment in the lodge, when it meets on Thursday.

The proposal is contrary to a council strategy on commercial leases, however the policy was agreed three years after negotiations with Include Me 2 Club had begun.

Council officials have said the proposed tenant is “a well-established registered charity” which provides services, support and advice to people with additional support needs, disabilities and mental health conditions.

“The long lease terms will enable the organisation to apply for external funding to sustain and meet the demands of a full repairing and insuring terms lease and a service level agreement,” a report to councillors adds.

Officials began developing proposals to bring the derelict gate lodge back, off Darnley Road, back into use in November 2018, with community engagement revealing preferred uses included a cafe, public toilets and social enterprise hub.

“The lack of such facilities in the park has been an issue for local residents for many years,” officials have reported. A call for expressions of interest in running services from the lodge was issued in July 2019.

Include Me 2 was then selected as the preferred occupier and almost £500,000 was secured from the Scottish Government’s regeneration capital grant fund.

East Renfrewshire Council contributed £391,000 to the project, but an extra £200,000 was required from the Scottish Government due to increasing costs.

The council added £28,7000 and Include Me 2 put forward £75,000. 

A temporary licence to occupy was handed to the charity on March 3.

The hub will include a cafe, public toilets, enterprise and community space for hire, meeting spaces for hire, a cycling hub, bike hire and maintenance and skills development sessions.

For a lease to go ahead, the council had to secure court approval to temporarily dispose of the ‘Common Good’ status of Cowan Park gate lodge.

Approval was granted, but the court ruled the site must be used as the community hub, and “no alcoholic liquor shall be sold or consumed or stored”.

In April last year, the council approved a commercial leases policy which permits “an exception whereby a charitable organisation can be granted an agreement on a week to week basis at £1”, but such tenancies should be for a maximum term of 52 weeks.

The policy states tenants would then have to pay market rent or consider a community asset transfer request, meaning the Include Me 2 proposal is “not consistent with current policy”.

However, officials have said the negotiations of the renewed terms of the lease to Include Me 2 began in 2019, three years before the policy was agreed.

“Over this period, they have worked alongside council teams to present the need for the facility and benefits they deliver to the community,” the report adds.

“The partnership with Include Me 2 has facilitated the attraction of the significant regeneration funds to allow a derelict building to be brought back into productive use to support economic, social and environmental activity in Barrhead.”