New Year- New Challenges (and a 2017 roundup)

2017 was a bit frustrating – trying and trying to push things forward, both with SDC and Churchgate, succeeding with some things and not with others. Just when we thought we’d be getting somewhere, it would all go quiet.

So what did we achieve?

Thanks to your generous donations plus funding from HLF and AHF, we had the viability report from Purcells, which has been a huge benefit to our cause. We presented the results to Churchgate in March, who said they were very impressed. In fact, they asked to have a copy of it, which we refused to do as it belongs to FLP and CG could go and pay for their own one! We were also asked to present it to one of the main directors of CG, Brian Shaffer, as he is the person who has the legal rights to grant us the lease. So for the past year, we have been trying to arrange a meeting with him – so far, no luck! We have even had local MP, Damian Collins, assisting us by inviting Mr Shaffer to meet at the Houses of Parliament for tea and discussion.  Brian Shaffer is the brother of the two famous writers, Anthony Shaffer and Peter Shaffer (Sleuth, The Wicker Man, Equus, Amadeus) and, we are told, is very interested in the Pavilion’s future. We shall keep on trying to get a response to our invitation from him and let you know when this happens.

In the meantime, we kept in constant contact with SDC regarding the repairs to the Pavilion, which Churchgate were obliged to do, but didn’t seem to be bothered to do them. As you are all aware, there were regular inspections of the building throughout the year (to which one of our committee members would attend) and CG were informed to carry out these works. Well, some were done, some weren’t, until it came to a point a few weeks ago, when SDC issued CG with an Urgent Works Notice and they had 21 days to carry out the remainder of the outstanding repairs (mainly, the propping of the basement to stop it from collapsing). We have now been informed that this has been done and have been given the photos to prove it.  We are certainly aware that these repairs are pretty basic and the Pavilion is still in great danger, thus needing a lot more done to it. In fact, I walked past there on Saturday to see the terrace looking like a swimming pool (obvious drainage problems there), not to mention a rubbish tip!

Having not had much regular progress on our campaign, we needed to keep the Pavilion in community awareness so in the spring we started working on the art project.  Previous blogs/updates would have made you aware of the challenges this brought, mainly because of CG erecting those wooden ‘props’ on the wings, thus obscuring the views of where we were going to place the artworks. This resulted in us losing sponsorship and our artist. However, we were not going to let this lie, and had offers from some wonderful local artists (and not local ones) to donate works for the exhibition. We sought and got permission from the Radnor Estate to also use the hoardings on the Lower Leas Lift Station. We also managed to get some sponsorship from Purcells and Found in Music, as well as some private donations. Huge thanks to the artists, Pete Alford, Rachel Beckett, Daniel Parker, Anna Laurini, Danny Pockets, Vic Reeves (aka Jim Moir), Rebecca Mason and Louise McNaught. After a 4 month delay, we managed to launch the exhibit in September.

Our stall at the Leas Village Fete in May was a great success, and we managed to sell quite a bit of merchandise as well as engaging new and current members in our cause. The weather was kind until the last hour as well!

We are now registered as a Community Benefits Society, as The Leas Community Trust Limited. We will still be known as The Friends of the Leas Pavilion, but needed to have a legal entity in order to apply for funding.

Our big news in the autumn, was the Pavilion’s inclusion in the Victorian Society’s Top Ten Most Endangered Buildings list. This brought us to the attention of BBC News South East and ITV Meridian (links to the broadcasts can be found on our Facebook page). This event also brought a bit of a shock to CG!

This winter has mainly been spent preparing reports for our funders, pursuing communications with SDC and CG and planning updates to our business plan.

The coming year?

2018 is going to be interesting, if nothing else. The planning permission expires in April so we are keeping a close eye on what, if anything, will occur before then. Due to the many conditions of the planning permission, just ‘digging a hole’ will not work for them. Apparently, CG have said that the sale of the flats will fund the restoration of the Pavilion, however, one of the main conditions was that the Pavilion had to be restored before the flats were built!

We have applied to Bright Ideas for some funding to cover our costs for future ‘battles’ and we hope to also arrange some fundraising events.

Funding for All have kindly offered to assist us in registering our Community Benefits Society as a charity so we will start this early in the new year. Apparently it does take a bit of time to do this. We will also be looking at offering share options once we’ve got our hands on the lease.

In early January, we will be launching a survey to gain your views on what you’d like to see happen to the Pavilion. The link will be emailed to members, posted on Facebook and Tweeted. Please do share with the world!

So it just leave us to with you all a very Happy New Year and let’s all be positive for 2018.

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