Turning your vision into reality

We have so valued the support and energy and ideas we have experienced from so many of you over the past few months, and have begun the exciting process of turning your vision into reality!

Thanks to funding from the Architectural Heritage Fund we have been able to engage the services of Perry from Peregrine Mears Architects and his team of architects, engineers and surveyors. They have sketched out some ideas for how the building might look which we are excited to be able to share.

We are keen to preserve the architectural heritage of this beautiful building, bringing to life the courtyard area which opens onto the street and repairing the original sash windows – as well as possibly adding a few more to bring light into the old vestry area.

Inside, we are keen to work with the existing space the building offers, enhancing it to make it more accessible and suitable for a variety of uses. The fabric of the building needs sensitive repair, particularly to the walls which have suffered from ingress of damp over the years and to the original wood floors in the basement.

We have also prioritised environmental sustainability – so are looking to vastly improve roof insulation, add internal secondary glazing, and install an air source heat pump to power underfloor heating on two floors. Looking further into the future we are also envisaging installing an anaerobic digester to compost food waste from the cafe and community kitchen and provide biogas to power their cookers. And we’re exploring the possibility of collaborating with our neighbours on a community energy project, harnessing solar energy to provide electricity for ourselves and nearby buildings…

Alongside all these essential considerations we are also prioritising fun – creating a playful, joyful space for community members of all ages.

We have developed a viable business plan which combines a variety of uses of the building to enable it – and our community – to thrive for years to come. This involves a balance between private workshops/events and community initiatives, with a variety of hireable spaces and facilities alongside a curated programme of events. These will integrate education, the arts and wellness activities with schemes that support community building and change making to create a fairer, more sustainable future for us all.

The ground floor space will house our main event space alongside a community cafe/bar which will also be available for smaller events and workshops. We have inspired by the integrated approach of similar organisations in Devon and further afield who are striving to make a broad range of people feel welcomed and empowered.

The basement, with its own accessible entrance, will house a community kitchen and dining area alongside a further multi-use space. As more funding becomes available, we hope to incorporate a multi-media recording studio on this level as well as a workshop for local makers – both of which can spill out to the adjoining space as necessary.

On the balcony level, we have a vision for a flexible work hub with hot-desking space as well as additional small room hire. We have not been able to include this in our first phase of funding applications, but we are hoping to secure the money to create it in the not too distant future.

All of these ideas have been enthusiastically received by the Strategic Planning department at Dartmoor National Park. Although we have not yet sought formal planning advice, they are very supportive of our goal to keep the building in community use with minimal impact on its architectural heritage.

We have made a huge amount of progress since we first met to discuss the future of this building in January of this year, but there is one major stumbling block we have yet to overcome, and that is finding the money to make these ideas a reality.

It is this that has been consuming most of our time and energy in recent months: we’ve been working on two major funding bids which we are now anxiously awaiting the outcomes of.

The first of these bids was to the Community Ownership Fund, a government fund established to support community groups to take ownership of assets and amenities at risk of being lost. We have applied for a total of £300,000, £50,000 revenue funding plus £250,000 to fund the purchase of the building and some essential renovation works.

The COF bid requires match funding for the capital portion of the grant, so alongside this we have applied for £250,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund to pay for significant renovations to the historic fabric of the building and also to engage a wider range of people in its architectural and community heritage. We are particularly keen to engage young people in this aspect of the bid, and are working with The Bungalow Youth Project and The Valiant Soldier to develop an oral histories project and an informal heritage building apprenticeship scheme as well as recruiting a young people’s advisory group to guide us as we move forwards.

We will hear whether we have been successful with these bids in the next couple of months, and in the meantime we are preparing to launch a crowdfunding campaign to help the final aspects of the financial puzzle fall into place!

If you would like to hear more about all this, and to give us your feedback on how we have responded to your ideas so far, we would love to invite you to a community consultation event on the evening of Thursday 29th September at St Luke’s church.

We are also keen to use this opportunity to recruit additional volunteers, particularly those of you who might have the enthusiasm and skills to support us with the marketing of our upcoming Crowdfunder. If you are unable to attend but would like to help out then please get in touch!

Turning your vision into reality

2 thoughts on “Turning your vision into reality

  1. Congratulations for an inspiring community enterprise – it’s heartening to see positive progress being made on rejuvenating this substantial Methodist Church building as an initiative to benefit a wide cross-section of interests and age-groups across the community. I stand in admiration of the core team behind this project, pulling it all together: for your skills and dedication, and I look forward to the coming public meeting to find out more.
    From a nearby, but non-Buckfastleigh, resident who has some fond connections in the past with the building that was decaying at the time…

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