Author Topic: SBC [Meaning Council Tax Payers] May Face £400,000+ Mechanics Institute Bill  (Read 64150 times)

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Offline Geoff Reid

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Todays Adver Headline: Council may have to pay £400,000 bill for Mechanics' Institute

When asked if the council must accept blame, deputy council leader Coun Garry Perkins said:

Quote from: Garry Perkins
“No, not at all. "



Q:  Why is Cllr Perkins front of house with this?

Worth noting that SBC Director Dave Potter and Cllr Peter 'Pogo' Greenhalgh were leading the stampede to gte involved and 'sort the Mechanics out', even going so far as issuing statements about compulsarily purchasing the Institute from ForeFront Estates.....

......and now they've melted away. Again.



Offline 20Eyes

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I know that certain parties want to obtain another man's property for £1 and turn it into a drop-in centre for 'the most vulnerable in society' (TM), but surely it's now time to let the owner develop the building. We cannot afford to pay £400k to repair one man's property just because some people mistakenly believe it will be a youth club eventually.
"Censorship reflects society's lack of confidence in itself. It is a hallmark of an authoritarian regime." ~ Potter Stewart

Offline Geoff Reid

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I know that certain parties want to obtain another man's property for £1 and turn it into a drop-in centre for 'the most vulnerable in society' (TM), but surely it's now time to let the owner develop the building. We cannot afford to pay £400k to repair one man's property just because some people mistakenly believe it will be a youth club eventually.

That, in a nutshell, is the crux of it.

Offline I Could Do That

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Should have been sorted/restored years ago
Proud to be gone

Offline Geoff Reid

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Should have been sorted/restored years ago

It could have been and almost certainly would have been, but the Mechanics Institute Preservation Trust prevented it.

Offline I Could Do That

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Not so sure Mr Singh's, ten storey greenhouse, design could be classed as restoring the building though.
Proud to be gone

ph1lc

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Geoff Reid - your last two posts ABSOLUTELY SPOT ON!!

Offline Des Morgan

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In 1985 British Rail Property Board entered into negotiations with the Council and I believe offered the building to the Council for the sum of £1 but this seemingly generous offer had a sting in the tail.  An examination of the building revealed significant structural issues which would require a sum of £1million to be spent on essential repairs, a huge sum of money in 1985, money the Council was not prepared to spend on the building. A number of enterprises have owned the freehold since 1986, each has provided plans to change the use of the building into a night club, a hotel and recently into a hotel and apartments.  All the plans have been opposed by local action groups and despite the comments of the planning inspector  who said ‘ The fact remains that there is no positive alternative for the building that can be shown to be effective in terms of securing its restoration, refurbishment and future maintenance’ opposition to anything other than  return to a community based building still continue.  Which brings me to Mr Stredder’s comment as to Mr Singh having a responsibility to the people of Swindon to restore this building to its original purpose.  No Mr Stredder, the owner has no legal or moral duty to do anything of the sort.  His legal obligations are constrained to adhering to planning laws as they exist from time to time. Other than that his simple aim is to ‘make money’ from his asset.  The Mechanics Institute closed in 1986, some 22 years later it is sadly a carbunkle, blighting the central area.  Maybe it would have been better to have gained some benefit from the site during the past 22 years rather than continue to believe that a magic fairy will appear, sprinkle the site with fairy dust and lo and behold  Swindon will have a new Mechanics rising as a phoenix from the ashes – such a belief is indeed for the fairies.  At the moment the only viable, costed and possible plan on the table is that proposed by the owner

 
The above is a letter i wrote in 2008 - nothing much has changed in the last 2 years other than it has now sat empty for 24 years and undoubtedly will cost the taxpayer some of the £400k referred to.  I do recall that Coun Perkins claimed that English Heritage or someone similar was putting up £250K for repairs or was i dreaming?

Still look at it llike this - if Coun Perkins gets back £400k from the Wi-Fi deal he can just offset it against the Mechanics


Offline Muggins

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1. It's not the Mechanics Institute alone that has prevented the redevelopment.  The owner is treating the building with disrespect, he will not seek a compromise in this listed building. Basically he's stubborn git.

2. What you say  are the Mechanics Trust plans for the building are not their plans, which are a lot broader and in keeping with the historic building.   

Blimey haven't you read all the other posts on this on other threads. !! 
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 Geoff Reid

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Blimey haven't you read all the other posts on this on other threads. !!

Yep.

And the more I delved into the relevent council meetings, planning applications, objections, stirring-up of 'stakeholders' and the various manouvreings of Bluh & Hunt and the alleged 'borrowing' of various files, the less sympathy I could muster for the NMIPT's position.

The trust says it has about 2,000 members.  2,000 people can raise a lot of money over , (how long has it been), 15 years? - how much has the trust raised and subsequently offered to buy the building from ForeFront estates?  I think Matthew will sell it for a reasonable sum, I asked him if he'd sell it and he said "Yes".  I have no reason to doubt him.

Do I think Fore Front estates should restore the building to the NMIPT's specifications and then simply 'hand over the keys' to the trust?, no I don't.  Neither do I want to see tax payers money being used by the Bluhligans to play monopoly with Swindons heritage buildings.

Personally speaking, and this will be blasphemy to some, I can live with a restored South-End and partially demolished North End if it means that the majority of the building survives in a recogniseable form.




Offline Des Morgan

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I am with Geoff on this one with a twist.

Is it worth saving what is a piece of English Social History - YES

Is it worth saving a piece of the personal history of the twon - YES

Is it worth doing either at 'any price' - NO

Is there an alternative - YES (there invariably is)

Will the MI ever be restored to its former use - No (please stop dreaming)

So what can be done - over a year ago I suggested to Coun Bluh that maybe the building could be demolished - brick by brick and rebuilt elsewhere (say next to Steam).  He seemed interested, indeed i offered to take him to St Fagans in Cardiff where the Museum of Wales has done exactly what i proposed. Sadly, Coun Bluh didn't feel inclined to accept my two invitations - although he did manage to take time to go with Rikki Hunt to see The Mayor of London, so it couldn't have been a matter of 'not having the time' couuld it?

Offline Muggins

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Des rebuild!  I am familiar with the St. Fagans Museum. Not a bad idea, but I suppose that might not be appropriate in the context of the whole area being a national preservation area along with that along some of the GWR railway line.

However it's not really the position of the Mechanics is it, but the condition of the building and it's future use. 
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 Jarvis

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However it's not really the position of the Mechanics is it, but the condition of the building and it's future use.

'Not the position of the Mechanics' [trust] ?

Yes it is. It is the New Mechanics Instititute Preservation Trust that has stubbornly obstructed and objected to any and every attempt, (that didn't come out of their own narrow ideology), to do something progressive with the building.

I was talking to Geoff the other day and something he said has really stuck in my mind:

Quote
"The Institute could have been a Phoenix,  but the trust preferred a Dodo"


Offline Des Morgan

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I understand the issue Muggins - but there has to be a point where a dose of reality kicks in. This saga has gone on for 24 years - that's at least 22 years too long.  The works being done to 'make safe' are really nothing more than putting a plaster over a gaping wound - it looks like you've tried to stem the blood loss but in reality it's ineffective.

I admire the zeal of the Trust but not their dogma and as Geoff points out - there is no burgeoning bank balance appearing on the horizon, firstly buy the property from Mr Singh and secondly to demonstrate an ability to start never mind finish a restoration project.

As Geoff also indicates the entire North end is not 'historic' - in fact it was a 'philistine' moment which allowed the building of the fly tower, even though I understand the reason it was done.

Muggins you say Mr Singh is 'stubborn' - I have to disagree.  He is a businessman and the owner his whole life revolves around the art of compromise and accommodation, as such he has submitted plans to the Council, not one set but a number, every plan is opposed.  Are you seriously telling me that there is a scheme he could put forward which would be acceptable to the trust which doesn't involve the building being saved as a history reference point for the people of Swindon. 

My plan allows for three things. 1. The building (or as much of it is salvageable ) is saved. 2 It could be moved closer to Steam thus starting the process of building a heritage area as opposed to a single attraction 3. Mr Singh gets his building 'footprint' free of any encumberance.

The question the Trust and the Council need to address is what is the iconic value of the building outside of the Emlyn Square area - before they answer let them at least consider the St Fagans project.  If the building is iconic and represents the social fabric of a past society isn't that worth saving for itself.


Offline Weebleman

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£400,000?
Flatten it and turn it into a canal basin.

Offline Muggins

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Weebs, I think the £400,000 refers to the wifi wastage and  teh + to the Mechanics.   but very funny. Groan!
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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I'm not going to answer line by line the issues set out in the above posts as the majority I have answered previously and it is clear that for some people no matter what the Trust says they will remain unwilling to take the time to think through the complex nature of the Mechanics' and the context of UK Planning Policy which guides it.

However I would say the following:
1) The idea that the proposals put forward by the owner are "progressive" is in my opinion a further example of Swindon allowing such low standards of planning and development. We deserve much better and we need to preserve and celebrate our heritage and culture as something to be proud of. Besides the Trust's view, the majority of statutory stakeholders agree his proposals were unacceptable given the listing of the building and were poorly developed plans.

2) The Trust has never had a policy that the owner should carry out a restoration to the Trust's specifications and then hand the building to us. This is simply incorrect.

3) I agree with Geoff's comments about tax-payers money being used to play monopoly with Swindon's heritage buildings by the Council. To make it clear again - the Trust has never had a policy of expecting the Council / tax-payer to fund the restoration and on-going costs of the Trust's proposals.

4) I'm worried about the perceptions that some people have that by default if a businessman puts forward a commercial proposal that it is automatically deemed viable. By what judgement other than "he's a businessman he must know what he's doing"? The Trust is the only organisation that has done any major business planning and feasibility work regarding the Mechanics' (which was funded by the Architectural Heritage Fund) . We are also the only organisation which has successfully gained Listed Building Consent for the whole building. We are the only organisation in Swindon that has interpreted national Planning Policy correctly in the face of SBC doing the opposite (as proven by the Central Area Action Plan Hearing in 2008).

There is a solution to the Mechanics' which is not only acceptable but something to be truly proud of. We must all stick together on this and demand what Swindon deserves rather than the short-change we have been given for so long.

Offline Des Morgan

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There is a solution to the Mechanics' which is not only acceptable but something to be truly proud of

But does it involve Mr Singh selling the building to the Trust?

With regard to the word 'progressive' in the context of the Mechanics - almost anything to resolve the issue of the blighted site could be deemd 'progressive'

I don't think anyone truly believes the Trust expects to be handed a renovated building for nothing.

I think it reasonable to consider a business proposition presented by the owner to be viable.  The standard to determine this is quite simple, will it provide a financial return in line with my investment. Clearly at the time of purchase Mr Singh believed it would. His views may not accord with the Trust but he owns the property.  You would have to admit you have made life very difficult for him and while you may be proud of gaining 'Listed Building Consent' you know it is meaningless unless you own the property.


I support the 'saving' of the Mechanics and have been very vocal for over 20 years through letters to the media and Council . However, I think there are other ways to achieve the objective. I do not see a life for the Mechanics in its current location and take the view that the building was more iconic than where it was situated, which in any event was simply to enable the people who lived close to and worked in the works to enjoy the amenity.

Offline Muggins

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However, we have discussed on other threads the need to connect the town centre with the outlet village and STEAM, if this would happen then the Mechanics would be well placed to deliver a continuity of heritage and service. It is, along with all that area, in a Heritage zone.  It's not ideally placed for a hotel. Or more flats, whoops, apartments!

That done, it would not just serve the local area, it would become a hub.  The community down in the Central/Railway Village, would, if our flipping council would listen to them, be able to access (and manage) community stuff via the Central community Centre, the old Museum building,(if the council would give it back (they should never have taken it anyway) and 9, East Street.  So it's not like they are strapped  for places now like they once were. 

It's not just up to the Central community to save the Mechanics and all the trust members do not live there.
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 Des Morgan

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It's not just up to the Central community to save the Mechanics


I agree Muggins - but there is aneed for some reality to come into the discussions.  The shell of this building is in a state of such disrepair that recently officers spoke about 'maybe not being able to save some of the walls' now if that happens what exactly is being saved?

Do we simply build a facsimile - a reproduction of the Mechanics?

Is it the building or the reason for the building which is important and if it's both then can one be preserved and not the other?

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The community down in the Central/Railway Village, would, if our flipping council would listen to them, be able to access (and manage) community stuff via the Central community Centre

Who's using it at present?

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the old Museum building,(if the council would give it back (they should never have taken it anyway)

Don't you think that Platform is meeting a need in the Central Area?