Author Topic: Mechanics Institute - Just what is going on??  (Read 241619 times)

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Offline Richard Symonds

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Re: Mechanics Institute - Just what is going on??
« Reply #60 on: October 26, 2010, 09:52:40 AM »
Daniel, I feel your attitude towards Mr Singh and his company Forefront Estates is unfortunate, but you do realise that it limits you and the potential for your project.

Provided legal requirements are met there is absolutely no reason why the owner should ever bother with you.

You have to engage with him or suffer the consequences of losing control, but in your heart you already know that!
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Offline Daniel Rose

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Re: Mechanics Institute - Just what is going on??
« Reply #61 on: October 26, 2010, 10:50:26 AM »
Ok thanks for your reply I do have a couple of questions I hope you could answer for me Mr Rose?

1: When was the Mechanics Institute purchased by Forefront estates?

2: Before the time of purchase was the Mechanics Institute a class 2 listed building or was its status as 'listed' implemented during or after purchase?

3: Has not Forefront Estates or Mr Singh applied for development rights?
Secondary: If Mr Singh or Forefront Estates have been refused the 'green light', why?

Many thanks in advance

Ben

1) Forefront Estates purchased the building in 2003. In 2002 English Heritage and Swindon Borough Council appointed architects Fielden Clegg Bradley to produce an Urgent Works report which would highlight what measures and repairs were needed in order to slow the process of decay to the building. This report was planned to be issued as part of a Urgent Works Notice due to be served on the then owner. During this period the owner announced that he had a buyer for the building (Forefront Estates). The Trust urged the Council to issue the notice regardless of the ownership situation however in they chose not to and put faith in the new owner Forefront Estates who claimed that they would carry out the urgent works themselves and therefore a legal notice was not needed. Forefront Estates paid £500,000 for the building.

During 2003 the new owner did carry out some works on the building largely concentrated on the southern end however these were incomplete and the removal of the roof coverings on the north end have had dire consequences. The Trust continually pressed the Council to assess to what extent the owner had carried out the works detailed in the original notice and to serve an Urgent Works Notice on the unfinished work. The Council refused to do this.

2) The building was upgraded to grade 2* in 1999, long before Forefront Estates purchased the building.

3) Permitted Development Rights are more restricted in Conservation Areas and with listed buildings. The owners original hotel application was withdrawn following the proposal being "called in" by central government and it never went to public inquiry. The later scheme put forward also for a hotel and associated uses, included the demolition of the north end and fly tower was refused. Some permission for south end of the building was granted (regrettably in the Trust's opinion) for residential apartments and conferencing. With the change in policy that SBC now need to adhere following the Central Area Action Plan hearing it is clear that this permission would not be possible to grant today just as it shouldn't then as it was not in line with Planning Policy Guidance relating to the historic environment as set out in government planning policy. This permission has been started by the owner but the work is incomplete and came to a halt earlier this year. Reportedly the work undertaken is of very low quality and in places not in line with the permission and was subject to the H&S notices last year. 

Think that answers your questions, let me know if not.

Offline Ben Reid

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Re: Mechanics Institute - Just what is going on??
« Reply #62 on: October 26, 2010, 01:38:40 PM »
Again thank you for answering my questions, (and again) I have a couple more questions.

1: In respective view of the historical implications regarding planning and development, would the trust and/or yourself not agree that the building would be in a better condition if planning were to be given the early on in the purchase by Forefront Estates?
As a follow up question :
What is the mechanics trust goal in regards to development/restoration or even partial development/restoration?

2: what legal obligation does the trust hold in relation to restoration?

Offline Daniel Rose

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Re: Mechanics Institute - Just what is going on??
« Reply #63 on: October 27, 2010, 10:21:23 AM »
Again thank you for answering my questions, (and again) I have a couple more questions.

1: In respective view of the historical implications regarding planning and development, would the trust and/or yourself not agree that the building would be in a better condition if planning were to be given the early on in the purchase by Forefront Estates?
As a follow up question :
What is the mechanics trust goal in regards to development/restoration or even partial development/restoration?

2: what legal obligation does the trust hold in relation to restoration?


1) The plans put forward by the owner were totally inappropriate for a grade 2* listed building in a conservation area of world heritage status potential. Also the plans put forward would of had a detrimental impact of the railway village community. Moreover the plans put forward were of poor quality in terms of design, planning considerations and contained little or no detail or justification for the proposals put forward. I would of expected any serious, professional and knowledgeable developer to put forward much stronger and well thought through plans but at the end of the day it is not the role of SBC or English Heritage to create decent planning applications and schemes. I must also make it clear that while the Trust has objected to the plans we have done so based on the backbone of national Planning Policy, which in each case we feel has not been met. The Trust has the right just as any relevant organisation or resident to submit views on planning matters but the final decision sits with the Planning Authority taking into account of the views of statutory agencies such as English Heritage. I do not accept that the building would be better off being "something" rather than its current state if the "something" is so inappropriate and leaves a lasting legacy of poor development on the conservation area. The Mechanics' always has and still does represent a fantastic opportunity to make a positive contribution to the regeneration of Swindon and the wider conservation area as well as serve the people of the town in a manner reflecting its past social innovation. 

2) The goal of the Trust's proposals and restoration are to become central to the regeneration of Swindon both physically and socially, creating a sense of place that would increase and celebrate local pride and culture, which has been squashed for so long. A restoration which would ensure that Swindon's Railway Village and Works have its place as core to any World Heritage Status between Temple Meads and Paddington. The uses for the building which have gained Listed Building Consent are available on the Trust website: www.new-mechanics.com

3) I'm not sure I fully understand your last question so please feel free to come back to me. The Trust is legally a Building Preservation Trust of which there are over 300 in the country who often take on historic buildings where all private commercial schemes have failed, this often comes about following a local council issuing a Compulsory Purchase Order and then initiating what is known as a "back to back" agreement with a Trust.
We are also a Development Trust which means we have objectives to provide facilities and activities involving community development, regeneration and neighbourhood renewal acting as a social enterprise.
We are a registered charity and company limited by guarantee, without
In essence the Trust holds all the relevant charitable powers and objectives to take on historic buildings, restore and operate them for the benefit of the public.

Offline Richard Symonds

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Re: Mechanics Institute - Just what is going on??
« Reply #64 on: October 27, 2010, 10:48:40 AM »
Daniel, I hope you are not suggesting that in these financially challenging times where adult services etc are losing millions off their budgets that SBC find money to purchase The Mechanics'?  I think there would be uproar if money were allocated in this way at this time.

What arrangements do you have in hand to raise the money yourselves to purchase or is your campaign a 'one shot pony' relying on SBC?  If it is you put yourselves at their mercy and have to rely on their agreement to your proposals.  They could, of course, completely ignore you as they have done thus far.

I do so hope you have a plan B which involves engagement with the owner?
All my posts are my own opinion and do not represent any political organization or group

Offline Ben Reid

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Re: Mechanics Institute - Just what is going on??
« Reply #65 on: October 27, 2010, 11:43:49 AM »
Quote
1) The plans put forward by the owner were totally inappropriate for a grade 2* listed building in a conservation area of world heritage status potential. Also the plans put forward would of had a detrimental impact of the railway village community. Moreover the plans put forward were of poor quality in terms of design, planning considerations and contained little or no detail or justification for the proposals put forward. I would of expected any serious, professional and knowledgeable developer to put forward much stronger and well thought through plans but at the end of the day it is not the role of SBC or English Heritage to create decent planning applications and schemes. I must also make it clear that while the Trust has objected to the plans we have done so based on the backbone of national Planning Policy, which in each case we feel has not been met. The Trust has the right just as any relevant organisation or resident to submit views on planning matters but the final decision sits with the Planning Authority taking into account of the views of statutory agencies such as English Heritage. I do not accept that the building would be better off being "something" rather than its current state if the "something" is so inappropriate and leaves a lasting legacy of poor development on the conservation area. The Mechanics' always has and still does represent a fantastic opportunity to make a positive contribution to the regeneration of Swindon and the wider conservation area as well as serve the people of the town in a manner reflecting its past social innovation. 

so in short, you would rather see it decay then restored with a different purpose?

Quote
The Mechanics' always has and still does represent a fantastic opportunity to make a positive contribution to the regeneration of Swindon and the wider conservation area as well as serve the people of the town in a manner reflecting its past social innovation.

im slightly confused by this, you want it restored but not by Mr Singh?
contradictory to what you just said yourself, so what does the trust want in regards to restoration?

Quote
2) The goal of the Trust's proposals and restoration are to become central to the regeneration of Swindon both physically and socially, creating a sense of place that would increase and celebrate local pride and culture, which has been squashed for so long. A restoration which would ensure that Swindon's Railway Village and Works have its place as core to any World Heritage Status between Temple Meads and Paddington. The uses for the building which have gained Listed Building Consent are available on the Trust website: www.new-mechanics.com

erm regarding the uses of class 2 listed buildings on your site, where?? the only thing on there is the trusts rather weak proposal.

Quote
The goal of the Trust's proposals and restoration are to become central to the regeneration of Swindon both physically and socially, creating a sense of place that would increase and celebrate local pride and culture, which has been squashed for so long

regarding your first statement, everything revolves around the mechanics building?
as with time everything changes, including pride and culture.

Quote
3) I'm not sure I fully understand your last question so please feel free to come back to me. The Trust is legally a Building Preservation Trust of which there are over 300 in the country who often take on historic buildings where all private commercial schemes have failed, this often comes about following a local council issuing a Compulsory Purchase Order and then initiating what is known as a "back to back" agreement with a Trust.
We are also a Development Trust which means we have objectives to provide facilities and activities involving community development, regeneration and neighbourhood renewal acting as a social enterprise.
We are a registered charity and company limited by guarantee, without
In essence the Trust holds all the relevant charitable powers and objectives to take on historic buildings, restore and operate them for the benefit of the public.

ok ill re-phrase my question

What legal ties does the trust have with the mechanics institute?

and again a couple more questions:

1: can you give me an example of a restored building that has left a lasting legacy of poor development?
as a subsidiary, if there are not clear examples isnt that just a prejudiced view against re-development?

2: can you give me an example of where commercial schemes have failed?
as another subsidiary, if there are no clear examples, how are you sure that a commercial route will fail?

3:
Quote
We are also a Development Trust which means we have objectives to provide facilities and activities involving community development, regeneration and neighbourhood renewal acting as a social enterprise.
did they not already do this with the platform?

4: Earlier in the post, on behalf of the trust you said you had put views forward to the planning committee and you do not agree that the building would have been in better condition had it been developed,  do you or the trust feel partially responsible for the rotten decaying state it is in now?


Offline Daniel Rose

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Re: Mechanics Institute - Just what is going on??
« Reply #66 on: October 27, 2010, 12:32:52 PM »
Daniel, I hope you are not suggesting that in these financially challenging times where adult services etc are losing millions off their budgets that SBC find money to purchase The Mechanics'?  I think there would be uproar if money were allocated in this way at this time.

What arrangements do you have in hand to raise the money yourselves to purchase or is your campaign a 'one shot pony' relying on SBC?  If it is you put yourselves at their mercy and have to rely on their agreement to your proposals.  They could, of course, completely ignore you as they have done thus far.

I do so hope you have a plan B which involves engagement with the owner?

As I have said all along the Trust does not have the policy that SBC should pay for the purchase or restoration of the Mechanics', I must also remind you that the Mechanics' has little or no market value. SBC should however as the local planning authority work within Planning Policy Guidance and other best practice to ensure that the Mechanics' is safe, secure and that urgent works are undertaken and to consider its future use and feasibility within the policy set out following the Central Area Action Plan hearing.

Firstly I'm not aware the building is currently being marketed for sale but in any case the owner has demonstrated that he has unrealistic expectations of what the building is worth. He may well of lost money on the project but that is down to his own business judgment and it is not for the Trust or anyone else to bail him out.  I do however accept that a direct transfer of ownership from the owner to the Trust is a possibility, however the most effective and preferred option would be to work within the framework of Planning Policy Guidance which is already in hand due to the urgent works and judge the situation once we know how the owner will react to the urgent work invoice he will receive from SBC. Evidence from elsewhere would say that several things are likely to happen: 1) the owner try's to sell the building (however there will be a charge on the land) 2) The owner hands over the building having considered his options. 3) The owner refuses to pay and CPO and/or other legal proceedings are launched. 4) The owner pays SBC for the work and we are back to square one.

As I've said before the Trust regularly assesses the best options to achieving our ultimate goal of owning the building which includes looking at the various plan B's as you put it.

Offline Mellon

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Re: Mechanics Institute - Just what is going on??
« Reply #67 on: October 27, 2010, 12:46:16 PM »
Prevention through jealousy......wait for planning applications , object every single one, denied just to get someone else to pay for it then hand it over.

Well well well, I'm not going to say much more on that, point proven
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Offline moley

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Re: Mechanics Institute - Just what is going on??
« Reply #68 on: October 27, 2010, 12:51:01 PM »
One Grade II building which I think has been done up very successfully as a commercial venue is the Brewery in London (the former Whitbread's brewery which is now a conference centre):

http://www.thebrewery.co.uk/about/

You can still see a lot of the history of the building, but it appears to be successfully making money (which to me suggests that heritage and commercialism are not incompatible).

Moley

Offline Daniel Rose

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Re: Mechanics Institute - Just what is going on??
« Reply #69 on: October 27, 2010, 01:02:13 PM »
It is not as simple as to say "you would rather see it decay then restored with a different purpose". The fact is that the building is listed and in a conservation area and is of national significance. Due to this (which should be seen as a huge positive) there are quite rightly planning restrictions in place - this is the law and it is the job of local authorities and English Heritage to ensure that these laws are followed.

The Trust wants exactly what I said we want to achieve. The proposals put forward by the owner do not represent those in the slightest.

Not everything revolves around the Mechanics' but the building and the surrounding conservation area should be the heart of any regeneration of Swindon. The value that sensitive and planned heritage restoration can bring to wider regeneration schemes is well documented for both social and economic development.

The Trust does not have a "legal tie" with the building. Those with legal ties in the broadest sense are the owner and SBC (as they are having to undertake the urgent works). The Trust has a legitimate "interest" as the only building preservation and development trust in the town.

I'm not prejudiced against re-development so long as the development is of good quality, benefits local people and is the optimum use for that listed building. If you want to find examples of the campaigns up and down the country where local people fight for their heritage and sense of place then take a look through the following organisations members: www.civicvoice.org.uk and www.ukapt.org.uk and you can make your own judgment. Why should we continue to allow poor quality developments in Swindon when other towns and cities wouldn't think twice about allowing them.

I believe that a commercial development of the Mechanics' is unlikely due to the amount of investment needed in its restoration vs the lack of planning permission to create a scheme that would realise a private commercial return. The only things that would be likely to achieve this commercially would be a hotel of significant scale (which we have seen not be granted) and residential both of which would require significant demolition (which again has not been granted). Also it has not been proven yet that SBC have investigated the alternative feasible uses as set out in the Central Area Action Plan (see previous posts for details).

Offline Daniel Rose

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Re: Mechanics Institute - Just what is going on??
« Reply #70 on: October 27, 2010, 01:04:08 PM »
One Grade II building which I think has been done up very successfully as a commercial venue is the Brewery in London (the former Whitbread's brewery which is now a conference centre):

http://www.thebrewery.co.uk/about/

You can still see a lot of the history of the building, but it appears to be successfully making money (which to me suggests that heritage and commercialism are not incompatible).

Moley


I agree heritage and commercial scheme can work very well. But sometime they don't and that is when alternative ownership and building preservation trusts, development trusts and national organisations such as the National Trust step in to save them and put them to use.

Offline Ben Reid

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Re: Mechanics Institute - Just what is going on??
« Reply #71 on: October 27, 2010, 01:28:51 PM »
Thank you for your reply,

In retrospect of what you have just said, it still seems that because the trust does not own the building the trust will deny any chance other than its own perception of what it deems as correct with the addition of the trust holding no legal obligation to the building itself, in my view the trust may very well have good intent for the Mechanics Institute but the way it has conducted itself is wrong, arrogant and childish.

Also Mr Rose have you any examples of listed buildings failing as a commercial enterprise?

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Re: Mechanics Institute - Just what is going on??
« Reply #72 on: October 27, 2010, 01:30:24 PM »
Daniel

The chances of the National Trust getting involved are NIL.

Unfortunately it looks as though Mr Singh will one way or another lose out - Forefront estates accounts show bank loans of £800K + at Jan 2009, with the mechanics being mortgaged to HSBC.

Not even Rob Bluh is mad enough for Swindon Council to get involved.

Your problem is that without SBC effectively underwriting your plans, you are unlikely to be able to raise the necessary grants to redevelop the building.

Please explain how you will do this without SBC.

Offline Daniel Rose

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Re: Mechanics Institute - Just what is going on??
« Reply #73 on: October 27, 2010, 03:57:33 PM »
I was giving an example of how heritage buildings in general can be taken on by bodies like the National Trust, not saying the the NT would be doing so Swindon.

I do not believe SBC need to underwrite the Trust's plans. The restoration phase would come from Heritage Lottery and other funds and would have to include an element of public/charitable trusts fundraising as with most heritage restoration projects. I believe that the Mechanics' would be a highly popular heritage project to fund due to the national importance and its place at the top of the "At Risk" register and the fact that the uses put forward by the Trust are beneficial to the community and deliver high social value.

The on-going costs would be covered from the social enterprise model whereby any commercial funds created from the conference and retail space for example would essentially subsidize the community functions which would not generate profit.

The Trust needs SBC to help enable the Trust's ownership as they have the legal powers of Compulsory Purchase for example. This is a common approach where Building Preservation Trusts and local authorities work in partnership and arrange a "back to back" deal of a heritage asset.

Offline Daniel Rose

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Re: Mechanics Institute - Just what is going on??
« Reply #74 on: October 27, 2010, 04:02:41 PM »
Thank you for your reply,

In retrospect of what you have just said, it still seems that because the trust does not own the building the trust will deny any chance other than its own perception of what it deems as correct with the addition of the trust holding no legal obligation to the building itself, in my view the trust may very well have good intent for the Mechanics Institute but the way it has conducted itself is wrong, arrogant and childish.

Also Mr Rose have you any examples of listed buildings failing as a commercial enterprise?

A number of listed building are very successful as commercial enterprises however some face challenges along the way or from the outset certain heritage buildings are just not suitable for such development. Like with anything you can find examples for positives and negatives so while I will try and find some examples for you I think the better option is to assess rationally the issues and prospects for the Mechanics, taking into account the wider conservation area and Swindon as a whole otherwise this issue isn't in context.

Offline Richard Symonds

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Re: Mechanics Institute - Just what is going on??
« Reply #75 on: October 27, 2010, 04:58:22 PM »
I must also remind you that the Mechanics' has little or no market value.

Are you on something or what Daniel, of course the Mechanics' has a value in excess of what Forefront Estates paid for it.  You are deluded if you think otherwise.
 
Daniel, the chances of the National Trust getting involved are NIL.

If they were going to do so they would have done so by now.  English Heritage already enjoy a lamentable track record in Swindon and I cite the Great Western Railway Turntable that is rusting away outside the Italian Restaurant previously the Pattern Store.  EH just blocked its relocation for further use to Minehead on the West Somerset Railway and caused it to remain out of sight out of mind and completely forgotten making it  irrelevent in the context of history of the Railway Works.

Unfortunately it looks as though Mr Singh will one way or another lose out - Forefront estates accounts show bank loans of £800K + at Jan 2009, with the mechanics being mortgaged to HSBC.
 

Do you actually understand basic business Daniel?  Ownership is everything and Forefront Estates own the Mechanics'.  Should Forefront Estates default on their loan it will become owned by the bank and they will want to realise any monies owed to the highest bidder.  Sentiment will not enter the equation.  That said I believe the owner, Forefront Estates, to be a very astute business which is keeping their powder dry and money in their pocket.

Forefront just have to fulfil legal requirements and nothing more and we could still be talking about this subject in fifty years time. 

If you do not have ownership you are powerless to do anything but comment from the outside.  I earnestly hope you will reveal your fundraising plans to to enable you to secure ownership of this precious building.
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Offline Ben Reid

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Re: Mechanics Institute - Just what is going on??
« Reply #76 on: October 27, 2010, 05:09:44 PM »
Once again thank you for your reply Mr Rose,

And thank you for looking for case studies of listed buildings failing commercially, now at this point I would just like to say that in previous posts Mr Rose had stated that listed buildings generally fail as a commercial enterprise, it seems Mr Rose doesn't currently have any evidence to hand. I am not going to call Mr Rose a liar, I would just like to say that due to this small admission some of Mr Roses points in counter arguments are temporarily redundant until such time Mr Rose has enough evidence to support his argument.

On a further note Mr Rose described the mechanics being used for shops and services, a self sustaining endorsement. Would Mr Rose agree with me that this is similar to commercial endeavour?

Offline moley

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Re: Mechanics Institute - Just what is going on??
« Reply #77 on: October 27, 2010, 05:12:42 PM »
Are you on something or what Daniel, of course the Mechanics' has a value in excess of what Forefront Estates paid for it.  You are deluded if you think otherwise.

Richard

Just one observation... the market value of properties (commercial and otherwise) can rise and fall just like any other artifact or commodity.... if your statement were necessarily true, nobody would have negative equity...

It's only worth more than Forefront paid if they can find a buyer prepared to take it off their hands for more than they paid for it.

Now in a world where there were no listed buildings, no planning permission and the owner could to whatever they wanted I'm sure it would be worth way more than they paid: but given the amount of hassle whoever buys it will get, I certainly wouldn't queue up to buy it..

Moley

Offline Drone

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Re: Mechanics Institute - Just what is going on??
« Reply #78 on: October 27, 2010, 05:27:09 PM »
National trust are unlikely to get involved unless the Mechanics was given to them with large sums of money.

However, within the last 2 months the Heritage Lottery Fund has invested £2 million in Cromford Mills 'oop North, so have form at funding industrial heritage.
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Offline Richard Symonds

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Re: Mechanics Institute - Just what is going on??
« Reply #79 on: October 27, 2010, 06:02:32 PM »

However, within the last 2 months the Heritage Lottery Fund has invested £2 million in Cromford Mills 'oop North, so have form at funding industrial heritage.

That is good news Drone but I think two mill will be required to secure the Mechanics' and will cost at least another £12m to restore.
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