A 30-year lease has been handed to a Barrhead charity for the refurbished gate lodge in Cowan Park.

Cabinet members at East Renfrewshire Council agreed the deal, which comes after a £1.2m revamp of the lodge.

Include Me 2 Club will run a community hub, with a cafe, meeting space and bike hire, from the site, paying a rent of £1 per year.

Council leader Owen O’Donnell, Labour, said: “It will be very, very welcomed by users of Cowan Park. It’s a great initiative and congratulations to everyone for getting it up and running.”

The lease is contrary to a council strategy on commercial deals but has been approved as negotiations began before the policy came into place.

Under the policy, charities 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.

Court approval also had to be secured before a lease could be agreed, to allow the council to temporarily dispose of the ‘Common Good’ status of Cowan Park gate lodge. 

Council officials reported Include Me 2 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,” the report added.

It continued: “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.”

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.

A council official told cabinet members that the facility will be open from 9am to 9pm from Monday to Friday and 8am to 6pm at weekends. Access to public toilets will be available seven days per week from 9am to 5pm.

Cllr Danny Devlin, who represents Barrhead, said: “I think it’s a great idea and it’s going to be a massive asset to Cowan Park.”

Officials initially started developing plans for the lodge, off Darnley Road, in November 2018, with community engagement revealing preferred uses included a cafe, public toilets and a social enterprise hub.

“The lack of such facilities in the park has been an issue for local residents for many years,” the council report stated.

A call for expressions of interest in running services from the lodge was issued in July 2019 and Include Me 2 was then selected as the preferred occupier.

Almost £500,000 was secured from the Scottish Government’s regeneration capital grant fund while East Renfrewshire Council contributed £391,000 to the project.

However, 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.