FRESH doubt has been cast on the future of the former St Peter's Seminary near Helensburgh after the Scottish Government decided not to take the crumbling building into state care.

A government-commissioned report from Historic Environment Scotland (HES) estimated that addressing the challenges to maintain the internationally-renowned, and Grade-A listed, building in Cardross and make it safe for public access could cost more than £13 million over 20 years.

The report persuaded government ministers to decline a request from the Catholic Church, which owns the property, to take St Peter’s into state care.

The HES report says the only option for the building looks likely to be 'curated decay' – a course of action which in itself is expected to cost more than £6m – though the government says it's willing to hold talks with all interested parties to see if even that can be reasonably pursued.

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Culture secretary Fiona Hyslop said: “The Scottish Government has no choice but to accept the recommendations from Historic Environment Scotland not to take St Peters Seminary into state care, due to the risk and cost to the public purse it would entail to the detriment of other properties in care.

“We accept the report’s analysis that the only reasonable way forward for this site would be ‘curated decay’ and I plan to convene a meeting with all key partners to see if there is a way forward collectively to deliver what looks to be the only viable option for St Peter's.”

The building was commissioned by the Archbishop of Glasgow in 1958 and opened in 1966 for the training of Scotland's Roman Catholic priests.

Hailed as one of the finest modern buildings of the day, and received the RIBA Architecture award in 1967.

But it was used for its intended purpose for only 14 years.

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Since its closure as a seminary in 1980, the building has been systematically vandalised and reduced to a ruin.

Advice from Historic Environment Scotland, published on Thursday, states that at least £6 million would need to be spent over five years, with further investment within 20 years, just to maintain the building and make it safe enough to allow limited public access – a process known as ‘curated decay’.

There have been a number of unsuccessful attempts to find a sustainable future for the building.

This included an ambitious project led by the arts organisation NVA, which decided in 2018 not to proceed with its plans for an arts facility at the site in light of escalating risks.

NVA organised a hugely successful light and sound festival at the site, Hinterland, in early 2016, which attracted thousands of people from all over Scotland to the site.

READ MORE: 'Hinterland effect' has Helensburgh and surrounding area buzzing

Historic Environment Scotland was commissioned to advise the Scottish Government on future options for the building, and to give a view on the request by the Archdiocese of Glasgow that it be brought into the care of Scottish Ministers.

The HES report to the Scottish Government stated that the site is challenging from a conservation, safety and access perspective.

The report concludes: “Having considered all of the issues, our advice is that we could not recommend that Ministers intervene by bringing St Peter’s into care as a Property in Care.”