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Author Topic: Swindon's Mechanics' Institute saga drags on  (Read 5821 times)
bobm
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« on: September 05, 2012, 07:11:42 pm »

From the BBC

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A firm that owns a historic building in Swindon that used to educate railway workers has been dissolved.

Companies House has confirmed that Forefront Estates Ltd, owners of the Grade II* listed Mechanics Institute, has been struck off for failing to file its accounts on time.

The company's director, Matthew Singh, bought the building in 2003 for ^500,000 and planned to develop it.

In 2010 the council seized the property in order to carry out urgent works.

'Owner to blame'
 
According to a Swindon Borough Council spokesman, the authority is owed an estimated ^1.2m for the urgent and dangerous repair works it carried out on the 150-year-old-building.

But he said it is going to be difficult getting the money back.

He said: "The council has never owned the building - the owner is to blame, he had a clear duty not to allow the building to deteriorate and he evaded his responsibility and the public pocket picked up the bill."

The Mechanics' Institute opened in 1854 as an educational centre for railway workers, but closed in 1986 and has stood empty ever since.

"It's exceptionally difficult finding a viable use for it," said the spokesman.

"It's in an appalling condition, it's full of asbestos, there's lead paint and the basement is flooded - it will cost a fortune to clean up and the council can't afford to restore it."

He said the council would be trying very hard to come up with a future plan for the building and was talking to the Mechanics Institution Trust to "explore every possible avenue" for a viable use.

Swindon Advertiser has a little more detail - including the fact the building will now revert to the Crown.

Quote
THE future of the Mechanics^ Institute remains uncertain as the company which owns the faded icon is set to be dissolved.
 
Companies House, the register of UK firms, says it will strike off and dissolve Forefront Estates Ltd for not complying with rules governing limited businesses.
 
The firm, whose only remaining director is businessman Mathew Singh, failed to file its annual return ^ which gives basic details about the company ^ by the due date of February 21.
 
The action could have been suspended if Mr Singh had sent in the document or if a third party had raised a reasonable objection by August 29, but Companies House says it did not receive anything and has now started the dissolution process, which will be complete when a notice is published in the London Gazette next Tuesday.

From the date of dissolution, any assets will pass to the Crown because they do not have a legal owner, the company^s bank account will be frozen, and it will no longer exist as a limited company.
 
It is not clear how this leaves Swindon Council, which has a charge on the property for the ^300,000-plus the authority spent on emergency repairs to the building.
 
The council has started the legal process to recoup another ^800,000 for additional work, and it is working up costed plans to completely refurbish the exterior of the building to find a sustainable use for it.
 
Council leader Rod Bluh said the council was looking into funding options before making its next move.
 
He said: ^Our position is quite simple. We^ve got all sorts of people trying to work up various options or likely options, trying to establish what may be possible in terms of support from Lottery funding etc, and until we know what the possibilities are, we aren^t in a position to know what to do next.
 
^So it^s having the full facts before any further decisions are made.^

Daniel Rose, the chairman of the Mechanics^ Institution Trust, said the trust had predicted some time ago that Forefront Estates would not deliver, but said the dissolution significantly increased the chance of the listed building coming under council control.
 
He said: ^At the end of the day it will come back to what we^ve said all along. The council will end up with this option and what the trust will be doing is lobbying hard to make sure they make the right choice and work with the trust to make sure that building can transfer into community ownership and community use.^
 
A council spokesman said it had taken legal advice and had been advised the dissolution would not affect its status as a priority creditor.
 

I go past it six days a week and it would be great to see some progress made rather than see all the hoardings, scaffolding and tarpaulins.  However it does need some cash.
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Chris from Nailsea
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« Reply #1 on: October 19, 2012, 11:20:58 pm »

From the BBC (with thanks to member bobm for alerting me to this):

Quote
Swindon Mechanics' Institute on Victorian Society's endangered list

A derelict building in Swindon once used to educate railway workers has been put in the top 10 of the Victorian Society's "most endangered" list.

The organisation said the Mechanics' Institute had fallen into a "terrible state" since it closed in 1986. It said the "magnificent" Grade II*-listed structure had fallen prey to vandals and arsonists.

The council said it had done everything it could legally to protect it from "the neglect of the private owner".

The Mechanics' Institute was opened in 1854 as an educational centre for railway workers but closed in 1986 and has stood empty since then.

In 2002, Forefront Estates Ltd bought the building and planned to develop it but last month the company was dissolved for failing to file its accounts on time.

Now the Victorian Society, a charity which campaigns to preserve Victorian and Edwardian structures, wants the council to step in to protect "one of the best buildings in Swindon".

Director Chris Costelloe said: "Things can't be allowed to go on as they have done since 1986 and really it's got to come down to the council as this is such a big problem. It's a really important building and, as one of Swindon's best buildings, it should have a very bright future and it should inspire future generations."

A council spokesman said the authority had done everything it could legally to protect the building and was owed an estimated ^1.2m for the repair work it had already carried out. "The assets of Forefront Estates, which are effectively the Mechanics' Institute, are now vested in the Crown following the winding up of the company," he said. "The council still has first call on those assets as the principal creditor, but is not yet in control of the building."
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« Reply #2 on: October 11, 2013, 12:55:17 pm »

The latest chapter in the story from the Swindon Advertiser.

Quote


THE Mechanics^ Institute has been named as one of 10 at risk listed buildings in the south west by the English Heritage annual Heritage At Risk report.
 
The building has been given a grade C listing, which means it is suffering a slow decay with no solution yet agreed.
 
Altogether, 18 structures in Swindon have been included on the register as at risk, including 15 archaological sites, one place of worship and two listed buildings.
 
Only one new entry in the Swindon area has been added since last year, the Church of St Leonard in Stanton Fitzwarren, which is Grade I listed.
 
It has been included after signs of slow decay, but a strategy has been put in place to deal with the symptoms, after a repair grant for places of worship was offered to the parish in 2012.
 
Also at high risk is the vacant Chain Test House in Rodbourne Road, which is a Grade II* listed building.
 
An application to build 257 new homes at the former railway works in North Swindon was submitted last month by Thomas House Ltd.
 
Other sites which are causing concern for the English Heritage inspectors include the remains of Holy Rood Church in Old Town, and the Roman town site west of Wanborough.

Daniel Rose, chair of the Mechanics^ Institution Trust, said: ^Unfortunately the Mechanics^ Institute has been on the register since 1999. The reason it got on there in the first place was because the Trust upgraded the building to a Grade II, which means that it gets the attention of English Heritage, as it is in the top 10 per cent of buildings in the country.^
 
Daniel said progress was being made with the site, and there was hope for the future.
 
^The building is now out of private ownership and the Trust is working to bring about a positive future for the building,^ he said.
 
^There has never been a better time to bring it off the register. For years it has languished, but now there is real momentum for getting the building secured.
 
^We are working with the council, English Heritage and the Heritage Lottery Fund to take a far more positive approach. We all believe there is a solution even if we do not know exactly what it is yet. But it is one of the most important issues to deal with for the regeneration of the town. This is not an impossible task.^
 
Daniel added it would be a shame if the Chain Test House development went ahead.
 
^I think it is a pretty uninspiring proposal, and a waste of that very important site,^ he said.
 
^Unfortunately it looks like they are going to take it forward. I think a lot more could have been gained from that site. I do not think the use will be appropriate, and the standard of design is not high enough given the importance of the site.^
 
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bobm
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« Reply #3 on: February 28, 2014, 02:22:30 pm »

An update (of sorts) from the Swindon Advertiser

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Daniel Rose, chairman of the Mechanics^ Institution Trust

CONCERNS have been raised about the future of the Mechanics^ Institute as a group charged with deciding its use has not met since last May.
 
The building lies unused at the heart of the Railway Village, and the most recent idea of using it as an art gallery has now been ruled out.
 
It is in the ownership of the Crown Estate but Swindon Council has a big say in what happens to it. The plan is to apply for funds from the Heritage Lottery Fund to secure its future but proof is needed that there is a long term aim. The next meeting to discuss its future has been arranged for March.
 
Daniel Rose, the organisation secretary of the Mechanics^ Institution Trust, said: ^At the beginning we were really pleased that everyone appeared to want similar things and we were moving in the right direction. There is no doubt we have been frustrated at the lack of progress but we are remaining positive and still want to work with the council.
 
^Our priority is getting the Mechanics^ Institute back in use and if the council does not want to do that then we will work with someone who does. We are not waiting for another six months for something to happen.^
 
The Trust wants to run a full site appraisal and examine all of the options. As the council has first charge on the building they must decide whether they want to use the building or not.

Daniel believes the Mechanics^ can be a key asset to the community, providing space for volunteer groups to use, an independent cinema, shops and a restaurant.
 
^What we don^t want to see is the building on the open market,^ said Daniel. ^It is such an important building which represents so much of the town^s heritage.
 
^It is bad for the area to have it empty and exposed to the elements. Applying for heritage funding is not a quick process so the longer it takes to get something together then the longer it will be before something can happen.^
 
Coun Garry Perkins (Con, Shaw) is a member of the cross party group. He said: ^When we were looking at a site for the new art gallery the Mechanics Institute was a site we looked at. Now it has been decided the gallery will go on Princes Street we can move forward.
 
^Yes, we have lost five months over the process but now we are clearer on its future. Our next action will be to work with the lottery to come up with a workable plan.^
 
Coun Mark Dempsey (Lab, Walcot and Park North), who is also part of the group, said: ^It is vital that we work together and create the best future for the building and for Swindon so that we can breathe new life into the future of Swindon.^
 
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grahame
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« Reply #4 on: February 24, 2019, 10:31:35 am »

(? New) Video at

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZbjbVMfg-mU

Video label says "Swindon Machine Institute" but it turns out within the film to be confirmed at the mechanics institute.

Anyone care to give the Coffee Shop an update as to what's happening / planned at present for the building?
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bobm
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« Reply #5 on: February 24, 2019, 12:01:06 pm »

The last I heard was the chairman of the Trust, Daniel Rose, was stepping down because he was emigrating.

https://www.swindonadvertiser.co.uk/news/17348152.daniel-rose-to-step-down-as-director-of-mechanics-institution-trust-after-16-years-with-the-organisation/
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grahame
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« Reply #6 on: April 29, 2019, 11:30:14 am »

From This is Wiltshire

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Baker's Cafe opens its doors to Railway Village residents in Swindon

A COMMUNITY cafe opened its doors in the heart of the Railway Village over the weekend.

The Bakers Cafe, formerly the Baker's Arms pub, welcomed residents to a barbecue on Sunday for its grand opening.

Run as a social enterprise by the Mechanics Trust it will serve lunch and supper from Tuesday to Friday.

Posted under "Mechanics Institute" because of the operator ... I presume that the "Mechanics Trust" is something to do with the Mechanics Institute?
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bobm
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« Reply #7 on: April 29, 2019, 11:38:27 am »

It is the second attempt to launch the café.

Last summer it opened for a few days but then closed with no announcement or explanation.

https://www.swindonadvertiser.co.uk/news/16604753.video-gun-raid-pub-the-bakers-arms-gets-new-lease-of-life-as-community-cafe/
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grahame
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« Reply #8 on: August 28, 2019, 04:04:16 am »

From The BBC

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A campaign to restore a "neglected" historic building has been given a £500,000 boost.

Historic England said the money would help develop an "inspiring and sustainable new use" for the Grade II* listed Mechanics Institute in Swindon.

The Institute opened in 1854 as an educational centre for railway workers, but closed in 1986 and has lain derelict ever since.

More than 3,200 people have signed a petition to save it.

The town's Railway Village, where the building is located, was recently announced as a Heritage Action Zone by Historic England, which is investing £1.6m to regenerate the area.

An initial £40,000 has already been allocated to the Institute for preparatory work.
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