Author Topic: Mechanics Institute - Just what is going on??  (Read 156787 times)

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ph1lc

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Re: Mechanics Institute - Just what is going on??
« Reply #380 on: November 22, 2013, 12:14:58 PM »
Well said Muggins  :thumb:

I get totally racked off with people trying to imply that the trust are somehow "the enemy"

They have often been the only people aware of what was really proposed (behind the media smoke screen) and worked tirelessly and thankless in the interest of Swindon's community and heritage

No-one is denying that the trust have the best of intentions - BUT and it is a big but. Without the trust the place would now be an hotel and the Council would be a million pounds better off.


Offline Muggins

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Re: Mechanics Institute - Just what is going on??
« Reply #381 on: November 22, 2013, 03:36:36 PM »
No, PH, without the trust it would be a pile of rubble holding up a road somewhere, you are not going back far enough. 

The Trust had to point out it's heritage value before it was saved - maybe to be then to turned into an hotel? Although the parking situation would have stopped that until quite recently. 
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 the gorgon

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Re: Mechanics Institute - Just what is going on??
« Reply #382 on: November 22, 2013, 04:23:50 PM »
I'd have more time for them if they'd spent the past 20+ years raising money to do something with the building (compare that to Karsten who's trying to do stuff off his own back) or (because they've failed to do that) they supported any redevelopment that preserved (or worked with them to preserve) the look of the building irrespective of whether there is any community use.

If it wasn't for the precursor to the MI trust and NIMBYs objecting to plans for a hotel in the late 80's/early 90's the building would probably never have ended-up in the state it's in - hope all those who objected are pleased with the outcome of their efforts!

As for the money issue, local charities can do a really good job of raising money if they put some effort into it. For example the Prospect Hospice charity shops each raise about £100,000 per annum, Wilts and Berks canal trust are in the process of raising a £325,000 community funded loan to buy a former pub next to Dauntsey Lock. 



Offline Muggins

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Re: Mechanics Institute - Just what is going on??
« Reply #383 on: November 22, 2013, 05:59:03 PM »
They could not raise money for  it, it was not theirs. They could have raised money if it was leased too them. It was,n,t

They did what they could,raised a fighting fund. And they have fought and won the battle of awareness raising, ad getting it listed.

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)

ph1lc

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Re: Mechanics Institute - Just what is going on??
« Reply #384 on: November 22, 2013, 06:13:09 PM »
No, PH, without the trust it would be a pile of rubble holding up a road somewhere, you are not going back far enough. 

The Trust had to point out it's heritage value before it was saved - maybe to be then to turned into an hotel? Although the parking situation would have stopped that until quite recently.

I grant you that it was only because of the Trust that the building was listed. But even if the building had disappeared it would have been a better result than we have today. Listing any building is a double edged sword. Did the people of Swindon care in the 1980's - the Council even turned down the chance to buy  it.

Had the Trust not intervened then planning permission would almost certainly have been granted for an hotel in 2004/5.

Offline Spunkymonkey

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Re: Mechanics Institute - Just what is going on??
« Reply #385 on: November 22, 2013, 07:33:30 PM »
The Mechanics Trust website is worth a read. In particular the section which highlights the top 10 myths about the mechanics:-

http://mechanics-trust.org.uk/mechanics-myths/

I think Myths 5 and 10 sum up the problem:-

5 ‘Swindon Council should let the owner turn it into something useful – anything, as long as he “saves” the building’
Any owner of the Mechanics’ is prevented, by law, from inappropriate development of the Grade II* Listed building – specifically by Planning Policy Guidance 15 (PPG15). This was introduced in 1991 by the previous Conservative government, and remains a cornerstone of planning legislation in Britain. In 2008, an independent government inspector reviewing Swindon’s Central Area Action Plan warned the Borough Council against contravening PPG15 in its handling of the Mechanics’. She concluded: “PPG15 acknowledges that the best use for a Listed building will often be the use for which the building was originally designed; reinstating that use should be the first option when the future of the building is considered.” In other words, only if returning the building to its original use has been fully investigated and found to be unviable should they even consider allowing it to be turned into anything else. Experts fail to understand how making the Mechanics’ a hotel, for example, could be said to be either ‘appropriate’ or ‘saving it’.

10 ‘Here’s the bottom line: it will cost too much and the Council can’t afford it’
It will, indeed, cost a lot of money to restore – £12million upwards, according to the Trust – but nobody is expecting the Council to pick up the bill. Lottery and heritage funds should provide the necessary money for restoration, and it is not anticipated that local Council Taxpayers will pay anything towards restoration costs. The big issue here is whether any future owner can meet the ongoing costs of running it, because this will not be drawn from national funds, and is unlikely to be subsidised by Swindon Borough Council (in the way that it subsidises the STEAM Museum annually. That’s why an economically viable business plan from a non-profit-seeking organisation, like the one proposed by the Trust, is crucial. The potential for the project to restore the Mechanics’ and turn it once again into a social and community asset is proven by the success of many such projects across the country since the National Lottery was established in 1995, the year the Trust was formed.

In Summary
The building should ideally be returned to it's original use, by a non-profit making organisation with in excess of £12 million to spare.

If English Heritage believe the building is worthy of a Grade II* listing, why don't they buy it?

Offline the gorgon

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Re: Mechanics Institute - Just what is going on??
« Reply #386 on: November 23, 2013, 09:04:43 AM »
They could not raise money for  it, it was not theirs. They could have raised money if it was leased too them. It was,n,t

They did what they could,raised a fighting fund. And they have fought and won the battle of awareness raising, ad getting it listed.

They could raise money, raise money to buy (or lease) it and then renovate!  Just like the Wilts and Berks Canal Trust are doing to buy a pub next to Dauntsey Locks - they plan to buy it and then renovate it.

If the MI trust had got off their backsides and raised money they might have had £500,000 (the price Mr Singh paid for the MI) with which to buy the building.


Offline Muggins

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Re: Mechanics Institute - Just what is going on??
« Reply #387 on: November 23, 2013, 09:12:50 AM »
It's a catch 22, Gorgon, they couldn't lease it or buy it until they get the money and can't get that much money without already having the lease.

Then they would have to have the money up front to buy And do the repairs.

The Mechanics was in private hands, who could decide or not to sell it. The Wilts and Berks (not taking anything away from their achievements, a wider pond from which to gain support and a different set up to get hold of the canal, backed up by a good, well practised national organisation. 

I will agree that had the  MI in the past not been so dogged about the use, they may have done better with local support, but no one else was coming up with any idea that would have gained charitable support and money, because that is were the money to do it would have come from.  Sooo much has changed since the Trust was formed.
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 Spunkymonkey

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Re: Mechanics Institute - Just what is going on??
« Reply #388 on: November 23, 2013, 12:18:20 PM »
If the MI trust had got off their backsides and raised money they might have had £500,000 (the price Mr Singh paid for the MI) with which to buy the building.


Back in 2010, Matthew Singh claimed to have spent £2 million on the building.

http://www.swindonadvertiser.co.uk/news/4870865.All_change_for_Mechanics__Institute/

He is often cast as the villain, but I think he has tried as hard as anyone to save the building.

The following quote from Matthew Singh is also interesting:-

The council are being obstructive. If they would give me the go-ahead I could have the south side finished by the summer. Rod Bluh has said he wants to cut the ribbon but why should I let him when he has been making it so difficult for me?

Typical ego-maniac planning the opening ceremony before the plans are approved.

Offline the gorgon

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Re: Mechanics Institute - Just what is going on??
« Reply #389 on: November 23, 2013, 01:42:10 PM »
Have a look at what WBCT are doing to buy the former Peterborough Arms near Dauntsey http://www.wbct.org.uk/branches/foxham-lyneham/news/1210-peterborough-arms-a-dauntsey-lock-canal-centre-appeal-a-loan-investment They're getting their members and the public to basically invest in their plan, I might not agree with all of their ideas but they do seem to know how to raise money.

The MI trust was established back in the 90's and there were still a lot of former railway workers out there and general goodwill from the public.  All it would have taken is to find 10,000 people (former railway workers, their families or the general public) to donate £50 each and they'd have had that £500,000.

Look at Tornado the Class A1 locomotive that was finished a few years ago, the trust that built that was established in 1990 and by by 2009 they were running the locomotive! http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LNER_Peppercorn_Class_A1_60163_Tornado

Offline Karsten

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Re: Mechanics Institute - Just what is going on??
« Reply #390 on: November 24, 2013, 02:29:49 AM »
If the MI trust had got off their backsides and raised money they might have had £500,000 (the price Mr Singh paid for the MI) with which to buy the building.


Back in 2010, Matthew Singh claimed to have spent £2 million on the building.

http://www.swindonadvertiser.co.uk/news/4870865.All_change_for_Mechanics__Institute/

He is often cast as the villain, but I think he has tried as hard as anyone to save the building.

The following quote from Matthew Singh is also interesting:-

The council are being obstructive. If they would give me the go-ahead I could have the south side finished by the summer. Rod Bluh has said he wants to cut the ribbon but why should I let him when he has been making it so difficult for me?

Typical ego-maniac planning the opening ceremony before the plans are approved.



in 2002 before MS bought the building Mountmead ltd faced SBC issuing an Urgent repair notice,
so he sold it to a 'fellow' developer.
http://www.swindonadvertiser.co.uk/archive/2002/09/05/7340757.Stopping_the_rot_at_the_Mechanics/
http://www.swindonadvertiser.co.uk/archive/2002/10/25/7336124.A_turning_point_for_Mechanics_/
http://www.swindonadvertiser.co.uk/archive/2003/09/18/7306630.Look_to_the_future/

At that time the roof of the North part was complete with not one slate missing. 
The south roof was holed by scaffolding poles 'vandals' had used.
But the building was inspected and found to be in relative good condition after being derelict for nearly 20yrs.
I.e no water incursion damage etc (apart from flooded basement of the Flytower.

If MS has spent 2 million on it, where?   
In fact he said he would rather 'let the building rot' if his plans weren't accepted.
He isn't a developer never was, in my opinion he is more into property speculation. 
He got £1m in loans on a building that is deemed a financial liability.   
Am I the only one that wonders how a bank like HSBC can just write off £1m and not investigate how it lost the money?

In my opinion the fact that Mathew Singh took all the slate off the roof of the North part and didn't make good the rain water drainage leaving the roof without protection for nearly 5 yrs is a crime in deed.
He did what he said he would do and left the roof to rot.
http://www.swindonadvertiser.co.uk/news/8408150.Mechanics____was_close_to_falling_down__says_architect/


Where are all the slates from the north roof and the roofing lead flashing? 
What about the roof paneling of the reading room which was the same as in the houses of Parliament.

All I ever saw of any development from MS is his demolishing of the toilets and installation of white PVC dormer windows and the removal of the North roof.
A lot of the cast iron window frames were knocked out and skipped by his eastern European workers in the initial clearance in 2003.
A lot of heritage has been lost.   I think even the MI's green man has gone.
I doubt MS is out of pocket.


As for hotel plans etc ..  Mountmead did have planning permission granted in the mid 90's, even though SBC denied the planning application originally.
The plans expired after the default 10yrs with no funding for a hotel or any works ever being started.
In my opinion Mountmead ltd and ForeFront estates ltd never wanted to develop the buidling.
It's easier to make money otherwise and they wanted it demolished as MS application to demolish the North part proved.

He had planning approved to develop the South part in 2004 and in the following 5 yrs he did little bits of repairs basically scavenging  parts from the North part (like tiles).
http://www.swindonadvertiser.co.uk/news/858047.We_want_to_buy_the_Mechanics___/
www.swindonadvertiser.co.uk/news/5013835.Former_Mechanics__project_manager_speaks_out_about_safety_concerns/

If he had been a serious developer he would have acted on the planning he had and converted the South part in to flats and started renting.  He never did.

Actions speak louder than words and MS actions in my opinion damaged the building more than any little repairs he did.

Of course SBC causing a fire and a roof collapse didn't help either ;-P :-\

Offline I Could Do That

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Re: Mechanics Institute - Just what is going on??
« Reply #391 on: November 24, 2013, 11:10:35 AM »
I totally agree with Karsten on just about all those points.

The slates were removed just after he'd withdrawn plans that were going to be investigated by the office of the deputy prime minister.

I think the time of year was approximately October.

At a previous meeting, the Mechanics Trust asked Matthew Singh if he would consider taking the opportunity to consider the heritage value of the building and do something great for the people of Swindon.

He literally said "I don't care about that"
Proud to be gone

Offline the gorgon

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Re: Mechanics Institute - Just what is going on??
« Reply #392 on: November 24, 2013, 12:10:12 PM »
http://news.bbc.co.uk/local/wiltshire/hi/people_and_places/history/newsid_8796000/8796557.stm

The planning permission for the original hotel expired in 1995, it was granted planning permission by the secretary of state in 1990, the original plans were submitted in 1988!    In 1987 the Mechanics' Institution Action Group was founded to fight plans to redevelop the MI, hope they are pleased with their efforts.

I'm sure people remember the early 1990's recession (which lasted from 1990 to 1993), I think it's fair to say that plans submitted during a period of economic growth look a lot less promising when an economy is going into recession.

Offline I Could Do That

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Re: Mechanics Institute - Just what is going on??
« Reply #393 on: November 24, 2013, 10:17:47 PM »
That wasn't Mr Singhs' ten storey tower plan which was set to be investigated.

The plans were withdrawn.
Shortly followed by the roof tiles being withdrawn.
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ph1lc

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Re: Mechanics Institute - Just what is going on??
« Reply #394 on: November 24, 2013, 10:53:16 PM »
That wasn't Mr Singhs' ten storey tower plan which was set to be investigated.

The plans were withdrawn.
Shortly followed by the roof tiles being withdrawn.

No - that was the next set of plans - also scuppered by the Trust.


Offline I Could Do That

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Re: Mechanics Institute - Just what is going on??
« Reply #395 on: November 24, 2013, 11:40:32 PM »
That wasn't Mr Singhs' ten storey tower plan which was set to be investigated.

The plans were withdrawn.
Shortly followed by the roof tiles being withdrawn.

No - that was the next set of plans - also scuppered by the Trust.

Or scuppered by the ODPM
Thank goodness
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Offline Muggins

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Re: Mechanics Institute - Just what is going on??
« Reply #396 on: November 25, 2013, 08:14:46 AM »
The Trust does not have the power to scupper anything, they only raise awareness and then mightier organisations than they, step in and do the scuppering - usually with very good reason.


I suspect the reason that the mightier, those with the power to do anything at all, can't purchase it and do it up, have a very long (priority) list of other endangered buildings around the country.  The Mechanics does not appear to be bottom of that list.


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)

ph1lc

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Re: Mechanics Institute - Just what is going on??
« Reply #397 on: November 25, 2013, 09:01:02 AM »
The Trust does not have the power to scupper anything, they only raise awareness and then mightier organisations than they, step in and do the scuppering - usually with very good reason.


But that is exactly what they did.

I grant you the plans were not to everyone's taste. English Heritage accepted them reluctantly, BUT if the trust had not intervened then the mechanics would now be an hotel.


Offline Muggins

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Re: Mechanics Institute - Just what is going on??
« Reply #398 on: November 25, 2013, 12:26:58 PM »
No it would not have been, the reason for not agreeing to an hotel was PARKING!!!

You are attributing far too much power to the Trust.  Looks to me like they were the whipping boy for that one.
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)

ph1lc

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Re: Mechanics Institute - Just what is going on??
« Reply #399 on: November 25, 2013, 01:22:30 PM »
No M - that was far from an insurmountable problem.

I'm certainly not crediting the trust with power - exactly the opposite. They have been nothing but an interferance, touting ridiculous plans that although sounding attractive would never have been able to become reality.