Author Topic: Mechanics Institute - Just what is going on??  (Read 187545 times)

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Offline Richas

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Re: Mechanics Institute - Just what is going on??
« Reply #20 on: September 20, 2010, 10:30:12 AM »
The key to saving any historic building is finding a modern use for it.

I know many dislke Mr Singh's plan but for me the problem is not that a modern extension to the existing building is wrong, it can work very well to highlight the historic bulding and make it into a viable building with a modern use. The problem for his plan is the lack of parking to make a hotel viable.

If we can find the use, and "community" is not good enough then the building can be saved.

Offline komadori

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Re: Mechanics Institute - Just what is going on??
« Reply #21 on: September 20, 2010, 10:05:43 PM »
With the National Trust having its headquarters just a short walk away, I've often thought it would be a perfect place for them to use, as an exhibition space, conference centre, etc.
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Offline Drone

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Re: Mechanics Institute - Just what is going on??
« Reply #22 on: September 21, 2010, 06:24:39 AM »
I think there was a very vague discussion about English Heritage and national Trust using the facility as a meeting venue/exhibition space. But, the issues were that 1, they didn't own it and 2, it would have been bloody expensive.


Bus routes around the Mechanics are currently a nightmare, btw.
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Offline Richard Symonds

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Re: Mechanics Institute - Just what is going on??
« Reply #23 on: September 29, 2010, 12:01:16 AM »
Anyone know the latest?

Come on Daniel keep up the PR please, you need to keep it going now you have started and here is the opportunity to keep the pot boiling!


and with 2106 viewings you have got our interest so please do not lose it.
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Offline Daniel Rose

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Re: Mechanics Institute - Just what is going on??
« Reply #24 on: September 29, 2010, 02:49:18 PM »
Anyone know the latest?

Come on Daniel keep up the PR please, you need to keep it going now you have started and here is the opportunity to keep the pot boiling!


and with 2106 viewings you have got our interest so please do not lose it.

An update on the Trust's work as requested:
I don't have anything major to add in terms of the current work, its fairly obvious as the work continues on the roof but I will share my thoughts on the last few days from another angle.
I've been non stop contacting stakeholders to arrange one to one meetings or telephone conversations and all have been positive in terms of wanting dialogue with the Trust and keen to discuss further or offer constructive help or advice on moving things on. I have to admit however that my attempts at such dialogue with SBC is still rather hard to secure. Feeling rather despondent yesterday with this continuing lack of relationship and communication I wrote down all the other organisations who I'd received positive responses from and realised that it was in fact only SBC who were the odd ones out, further evidence of their continuing ways of working that is debated on this forum so much. The common sentence I heard from several organisations and stakeholders was to the effect of "until you get your local authority sorted out its hard for us to engage". This raises the question - what does a third sector organisation (such as the Trust) do if with all the will in the world your local council just won't 'get it' or engage with you whether they are doing it on purpose or not? Its an infuriating situation of chicken and egg which has held back the Mechanics', the Trust and countless other issues and organisations for years. I will continue to try to gain this relationship with SBC and offer the olive branch to get this important issue resolved but I'm increasingly running out of options with this strategy and to be honest patience with them.

Sorry for the slight rant but that's what was in my head at time - useful to get it out! 

Offline Richard Symonds

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Re: Mechanics Institute - Just what is going on??
« Reply #25 on: September 29, 2010, 03:29:29 PM »
Right Daniel,

You need to ask the following questions:

1.  If Swindon Borough Council do not and or will not engage with you, The New Mechanics' Trust, do they have other plans?

and

2.  If so what are they?

I take it you have undertaken a dialogue with the owner?  Stupid not to, after all he is the owner of the freehold.

I regard it as extremely ominous that SBC do not want to engage with you.

What do they have to hide?

Questions to Full Council on October 7th will be a very interesting digression from CUTS!
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Offline Richard Symonds

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Re: Mechanics Institute - Just what is going on??
« Reply #26 on: September 29, 2010, 03:34:53 PM »
An interesting letter to the Swindon Advertiser from Mr Les White

http://www.swindonadvertiser.co.uk/yoursay/swindonletters/8420308.Letter_from_Les_White/

I HAVE written many times on the matter of the Mechanics’ Institute. Is the council so taken aback by the state of the building when in fact most of the blame must go to them, English Heritage and the Mechanics’ Trust, who have themselves to blame as they have not, or will not, sit down around a table and thrash out what would be acceptable for the building, so Mr Singh and previous owners can move on.

Stop dithering and get some action done. You might not need to replace the roof if there was something which would be acceptable in the pipeline. Do you really expect him to pay for work he has not given his consent to?

Don’t forget the council was offered the building many years ago for peanuts, please do not blame each other as you are all responsible for not accepting it because it would have cost money to put right - so sort it out now.

LES WHITE Mulberry Grove Rodbourne Cheney Swindon



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Offline Daniel Rose

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Re: Mechanics Institute - Just what is going on??
« Reply #27 on: September 29, 2010, 03:52:20 PM »
Right Daniel,

You need to ask the following questions:

1.  If Swindon Borough Council do not and or will not engage with you, The New Mechanics' Trust, do they have other plans?

and

2.  If so what are they?

I take it you have undertaken a dialogue with the owner?  Stupid not to, after all he is the owner of the freehold.

I regard it as extremely ominous that SBC do not want to engage with you.

What do they have to hide?

Questions to Full Council on October 7th will be a very interesting digression from CUTS!

1) They may have other plans which I fear will not be in the interests of the building or the community or make the most of the real opportunity the building could deliver for the town. I can't get a straight answer on this and the Trust is as much in the dark as anyone else.

2) We have not had dialogue with the owner for some time. It has never proved particularly useful and he hasn't wanted to engage constructively with us or as far as I can see anyone else in terms of stakeholders. He has had unrealistic expectations of what the building is worth and his actions are questionable to date.

3) I agree it is ominous that SBC aren't engaging and indeed what do they have to hide. Also why wouldn't you engage with the only Building Preservation Trust and Development Trust in the town and the only organisation to have Listed Building Consent for the whole building and a business plan, knowledge, history etc to bring to the table. As it states in Planning Policy Guidance and countless examples around the country the role of such local trusts is common in resolving such matters. I'm currently contacting other Building Preservation Trusts to gain their insight and potential to share their experience with Swindon as the worry is that things all too often become insular, inward looking and lacking in vision in Swindon's decision making.

Your point Richard is central to the whole Mechanics' issue now but also in the past. I would be intrigued to hear what others observations are on such matters. 

Full Council could indeed be an interesting addition.

Offline Richard Symonds

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Re: Mechanics Institute - Just what is going on??
« Reply #28 on: September 29, 2010, 05:38:50 PM »
Daniel you last post worries me as it appears confused.

If you don't do something immediately you could be sidelined permanently and then we all lose.

You must come to Council and ask carefully prepared pithy and to the point questions or your opportunities to gain information will be lost

alternatively do a Freedom of Information Request and publish it.

As for Mr Singh, your very future relies on his input for better or for worse so please seek some form of dialogue with him and pooh pooing everything he suggests is at best unhelpful and maybe the very reason why nobody will engage with you.  You don't have to agree with him but please do not deride his perspective because at the end of the day he is still the owner.

How is your fundraising going with a view to achieving ownership or are you relying on the Council to hand it over to you in which case you might as well disband now?
All my posts are my own opinion and do not represent any political organization or group

Offline Daniel Rose

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Re: Mechanics Institute - Just what is going on??
« Reply #29 on: September 29, 2010, 10:34:34 PM »
Daniel you last post worries me as it appears confused.

If you don't do something immediately you could be sidelined permanently and then we all lose.

You must come to Council and ask carefully prepared pithy and to the point questions or your opportunities to gain information will be lost

alternatively do a Freedom of Information Request and publish it.

As for Mr Singh, your very future relies on his input for better or for worse so please seek some form of dialogue with him and pooh pooing everything he suggests is at best unhelpful and maybe the very reason why nobody will engage with you.  You don't have to agree with him but please do not deride his perspective because at the end of the day he is still the owner.

How is your fundraising going with a view to achieving ownership or are you relying on the Council to hand it over to you in which case you might as well disband now?

Richard I'm not confused in the slightest. I believe the Trust is doing everything possible at this time to ensure we are not sidelined. Also as I said in a previous post it is just SBC who are not engaging with the Trust and while that is a problem it does not equal "nobody will engage with you" - just to be clear on that point.

The Trust has often over the years used Council, Cabinet and other committees to raise issues. Myself and the Board will make a decision on when and how we do this in the future including the next Full Council meeting. We have also used FOI a lot, albeit like getting blood out of a stone.

I point you back to a previous post I made recently regarding fundraising as well as my opinions on the options for ownership change. Briefly again though a "Back-to-Back" deal with SBC is a preferred option and one which the Trust has advocated for years as this is a common approach to such matters and is highlighted in Planning Policy Guidance whereby a Council CPO's a building and hands it directly over to a Building Preservation Trust. However this is not the only option for achieving ownership and the Board has regular discussions over the options available to pursue this objective.

Offline Richard Symonds

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Re: Mechanics Institute - Just what is going on??
« Reply #30 on: September 29, 2010, 11:15:20 PM »
Daniel I am starting to feel you are a lost cause, but I will give this one last try to help.

Have you registered your FOI's through they work for you?  This registers them and chases them for you and notes if you do not get a reply.

Sadly by the way in which you have answered my postings it is clear that your thinking is muddled, confused and lacking any particular focus and it is all too easy to why the people who matter ignore you, ie the owner and SBC. 

They don't have to engage with you and so the onus of responsibility is with you to engage with them and persuade them to do so and show them you have the means to deliver on any negotiating position.  How can you possibly satisfy this basic business requirement?

Until you are in a position to purchase the building nothing will happen and if it does you will never be in a position to exercise any control over it until and unless you are in a position to put money on the table.  At the moment as I understand it you have no means of doing so or even showing the potential to do so.

Sorry to be blunt but that is the way I see it.

I am now going to keep any further thoughts to myself and watch this uadulterated tragedy reach its natural conclusion, but nevertheless from the bottom of my heart wish you well.
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Offline poemogram

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Re: Mechanics Institute - Just what is going on??
« Reply #31 on: September 30, 2010, 08:40:13 AM »
Tuff luv Richard

Trust - the ball is in your court

SBC - seems you hold a big racquet

Mr Singh - I make an appeal to you as umpire - can you please find a way to return Mechanics' to Swindon residents' control ?

East Meets West

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we are both blessed with insight
in spite of what the media portrays
he does this, she does that
when east meets west
we blow the media cover
and discover, one another


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www.tonyhillier.co.uk

Offline Daniel Rose

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Re: Mechanics Institute - Just what is going on??
« Reply #32 on: September 30, 2010, 10:50:15 AM »
Daniel I am starting to feel you are a lost cause, but I will give this one last try to help.

Have you registered your FOI's through they work for you?  This registers them and chases them for you and notes if you do not get a reply.

Sadly by the way in which you have answered my postings it is clear that your thinking is muddled, confused and lacking any particular focus and it is all too easy to why the people who matter ignore you, ie the owner and SBC. 

They don't have to engage with you and so the onus of responsibility is with you to engage with them and persuade them to do so and show them you have the means to deliver on any negotiating position.  How can you possibly satisfy this basic business requirement?

Until you are in a position to purchase the building nothing will happen and if it does you will never be in a position to exercise any control over it until and unless you are in a position to put money on the table.  At the moment as I understand it you have no means of doing so or even showing the potential to do so.

Sorry to be blunt but that is the way I see it.

I am now going to keep any further thoughts to myself and watch this uadulterated tragedy reach its natural conclusion, but nevertheless from the bottom of my heart wish you well.

Your posts seem to underplay significantly the complex nature of the issue, the role of the Trust and simplify the various processes involved in planning matters and historic buildings. Linked to this is also the funding issue you raised which as I've explained in the past is not the first step in the process, what is required first is a clear roadmap owned by all stakeholders of the direction of travel. Ownership change and any required funding comes slightly further down the line (finance of course is significantly important but is not the starting point in this instance, first we must agree the basic objectives between stakeholders for the future of the building and its use).

Richard of course the Trust has and will continue to make it a priority to engage with SBC and all stakeholders in order for the us to take a positive lead role in solving this issue. This has been one of the main arguments I've been setting out on this forum and elsewhere.

My thinking is the opposite of "muddled, confused and lacking any particular focus". I know you want to see this issue solved and come to a positive conclusion as do I but please take my word for it that the Trust is clear in its direction and understanding of the complexity of the matter and the order and timing of the various objectives required to happen.

You clearly have a keen interest in this issue which should be applauded and if you wish to have a face to face conversation about it to further this interest or knowledge then my door is always open and you only have to contact me. 


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Re: Mechanics Institute - Just what is going on??
« Reply #33 on: September 30, 2010, 01:45:17 PM »
Sorry Daniel Funding HAS to be the starting point. The situation is too urgent as far as the building itself is concerned, and now the Council have intervened, the situation will have to be resolved quickly. There is the issue of the cost of the urgent works - if the council wish to try to reclaim this then they are going to have to seriously consider the owners proposals for the building. The alternatibve will be a long and costly litigation.

Unless the trust can come up with the required funding fairly quickly and a workable business plan, then there is a very good chance that the owner will get planning permission.





Offline Muggins

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Re: Mechanics Institute - Just what is going on??
« Reply #34 on: September 30, 2010, 02:00:12 PM »
The owner won't get planning permission if what he proposes is against planning law.

There are LAWS on what you can and cannot do to listed buildings.

The Trust cannot raise funds for a building that they don't own, but they can get going very quickly once they have a legal 'hold' on it or are working in partnership with those that do.  The Trust are doing the right thing, getting everything ready and in place for the day when they can.
It IS do-able.

I'm sorry I can't understand why there is this continual digging at those who are doing their best.   I can confirm that their representatives are everywhere at meetings etc. and have been for all the time there has been a Trust.
Oi! Listen mush. Old eyes, remember? I’ve been around the block a few times. More than a few. They’ve knocked down the blocks I’ve been around and rebuilt them as bigger blocks. Super blocks. And I’ve been round them as well.  The Doctor (Night Terrors)

Offline Daniel Rose

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Re: Mechanics Institute - Just what is going on??
« Reply #35 on: September 30, 2010, 02:06:32 PM »
Things are urgent but there still has to be a clear process of well thought through actions or the risk is that in the haste poor decisions are made and we do not gain the full potential from the opportunity. Also the fact that SBC have taken a financial risk should bare no relation on how the owners future plans are dealt with - if he does indeed put forward any - in all cases treatment should be open, transparent and within Planning Policy, taking into account views of stakeholders.

You mention a business plan which definitely comes before funding otherwise you don't know what your funding, how much, in what way, over what timescales etc. The Trust has a business plan, costings and Listed Building Consent for the building already, although they are in need of updating to today's environment. Feasibility and viability studies are costly exercises and not something that can be done year on year. In order to undertake this work we are working with partners but we still require a partnership and outline agreement with SBC to enable full funds for this work to be released from relevant bodies such as the Architectural Heritage Fund who specifically fund Building Preservation Trusts business planning. They will not release funds until they see a clear direction of travel and partnership from the local authority - hence the importance I put on the relationship with SBC.

The above shouldn't be so hard to achieve and you would think was in the interests of SBC to help - the question to ask is "why wouldn't they?" What do people think?


Offline Richard Symonds

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Re: Mechanics Institute - Just what is going on??
« Reply #36 on: September 30, 2010, 02:33:49 PM »
More Questions than answers

Who presently owns the building, are we sure about that one?

Who has been talking to the people believed to own the building and what are their intentions?

Ownership is everything and can prevent everything and we could still be looking at a stabilised ruin in fifty years time if the owners decide to sit on it and there is nothing any one of us can do about it.

and where are SBC in this equation and with their track record on 'deals' who is say this is not already a fait acompli for the simple reason it is Swindon's money that is being spent right now?

 and

one final question

Who controls planning in Swindon?

Sadly the Trust can be ignored and will continue to be ignored if it doesn't change its tactics and show it has the capacity to make some financial contribution.  Its a bit like the childrens fete you know we did not have the money and were completely reliant on outside funding to make it happen, and that was achieved as late as five weeks before we were holding the event.  Next year you may well not be so lucky!
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Offline Daniel Rose

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Re: Mechanics Institute - Just what is going on??
« Reply #37 on: September 30, 2010, 02:49:34 PM »
More Questions than answers

Who presently owns the building, are we sure about that one?

Who has been talking to the people believed to own the building and what are their intentions?

Ownership is everything and can prevent everything and we could still be looking at a stabilised ruin in fifty years time if the owners decide to sit on it and there is nothing any one of us can do about it.

and where are SBC in this equation and with their track record on 'deals' who is say this is not already a fait acompli for the simple reason it is Swindon's money that is being spent right now?

 and

one final question

Who controls planning in Swindon?

Sadly the Trust can be ignored and will continue to be ignored if it doesn't change its tactics and show it has the capacity to make some financial contribution.  Its a bit like the childrens fete you know we did not have the money and were completely reliant on outside funding to make it happen, and that was achieved as late as five weeks before we were holding the event.  Next year you may well not be so lucky!

It is totally inaccurate to say that there is nothing that can be done to stop the owner sitting on the building - local authorities have the legal powers to resolve such situations and the Trust has argued for such intervention consistently - the current urgent works is an example of the legal powers councils have, albeit shamefully later than it should of been.

Richard I can only point you back to previous posts to understand the funding issues and the overall processes involved in these matters.

As for the Children's Fete - as I said last week I do not think funding such community initiatives from grants is a problem - that is the role of having grant programmes and funding pots for organisations and groups to apply to. Also we have run the Fete many times now and each has been funded and a successful popular event whether funded directly by the Trust or via grant funding. I would also point out that the Trust has operated for 15 years with next to no outside funding whatsoever - the majority has been earned income and donations.

ph1lc

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Re: Mechanics Institute - Just what is going on??
« Reply #38 on: September 30, 2010, 02:54:00 PM »
There are clear guidelines Muggins - what is being proposed would not be against the law if the owner could show that there were no viable alternatives.

Offline Daniel Rose

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Re: Mechanics Institute - Just what is going on??
« Reply #39 on: September 30, 2010, 03:09:47 PM »
There are clear guidelines Muggins - what is being proposed would not be against the law if the owner could show that there were no viable alternatives.

Just wanted to explore this a bit further with you if I can:
1)What is the owner proposing? As far as I'm aware he does not have any new plans on the table.
2) The test of proving there are no other viable alternatives is not the whole point - even if this was the case and he proved there were no other alternatives this doesn't equal a blank canvas for the owner to justify anything. Any proposal would still need to satisfy other heritage and planning constraints and views from statutory bodies.