Bickford-Smith Institute Working Party reports to Porthleven Town Council

The Bickford-Smith Institute is an iconic building; in reality it is more than that, it is a powerful symbol of place. The vision for the BSI should not be small. We as a community should be ambitious in our plans to create something of which the community is proud– and uses regularly.

The Working Party of the Bickford-Smith Institute (BSI) gave an update to Porthleven Town Council on the work so far, and the next few steps at the September meeting of the Council. The Council endorsed the work so far, and the next steps. 

One of the first issues to be sorted is any funding grants, donations and bequests that the Council receives will need to be tax efficient. Therefore, there would be the necessary to set up a charity. The BSI will remain in the ownership of Porthleven Town Council. This is a ‘red-line’ for the Council.

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The recommendation of the working party is that a new charity under the control and ownership of the Town Council be set up. Ownership of the building is a ‘red-line for the Council. This charity would lease the building from the Town Council, raise funds, manage the refurbishment and then operate the building. This gives a wide opportunity for grant funding but retains ownership of the building by the Town Council.

Legal advice would need to be sought over the wording of the lease to include a time-linked termination clause should the charity fail in its aims and objectives. Trustees will need to be suitably skilled but would include a majority of town councillors. This was accepted as the preferred way forward by the whole of the Council.

It is estimated the restoration of the building will cost in the region of £650k-750k. Annual operating costs are estimated at £25-45,000 (depending on the use). The refurbishment of the building will require the support of grant funding, which is at present a very scarce resource.

Currently, the Working Party has identified five possible options available to the Town Council regarding the future use of the Bickford-Smith Institute. The option but forward to the Town Council by the BSI Working Group are as:

  1. Do nothing. The building will deteriorate. Investigations suggest that major repairs to the structural integrity of the building e.g. the institute roof, will be needed in the next two years, therefore there is a significant cost to doing nothing.
  2. Refurbish as community building. This would retain at least one snooker table in the building as well as space for the town clerk and meetings. It would require part-time management and would compete with other public spaces. Finding grant funding for such a project will be difficult as existing space is available in the village therefore a significant part of the cost of the refurbishment and on-going costs may need to come from the Town Council. If any grant funding were to be identified for the refurbishment any bid would need a clear focus for the use of the space that does not compete with other venues in town. The annual running costs might come through a raising of the parish precept (estimated £14 per household per annum).
  3. Refurbishment as part Community building with holiday let. This would see the Caretaker’s Cottage turned into a holiday cottage generating an annual income of c£28,000 towards running costs (with the remainder being met by hall rentals). Grant funding would need to be identified for the refurbishment costs and any bid would need a clear focus for the Institute’s community space that does not compete with other venues in town. The snooker club would need to be relocated.
  4. Refurbishment as part Community building with domestic let. As above, grant funding would be needed for the refurbishment of the community space and this would need a clear purpose to succeed. A domestic let will generate £8,000 per annum towards running costs with an additional estimated £8,000 from the community portion of the building. The shortfall is likely to be met by a rise in the parish precept (estimated £9 per household per annum). The snooker club would need to be relocated.
  5. Refurbishment as a Community Heritage, Art and Culture Space. The refurbishment of the whole space (possibly with an extension into the courtyard) for community heritage, art and culture activities. This fits in with the original remit of the building as a place for education, literature and science (with the science angle being expanded on via the technology used in exhibits and the choice of visiting speakers and events). Grant funding is available for this type of venue and has the most likely chance of success. The snooker club would need to be relocated.

The recommendation put forward by the Working Party is:

The Working Party has sought to find a way forward that fits the needs of the community, who told us their top two preferred uses for the Institute were as a heritage and community space. We have married this with a scheme that fits within available funding streams and identified Option 5 as the most likely to succeed.

However, it is imperative that the issues of a suitable venue for the snooker club and the consideration of provision for a youth facility in the village be included as part of the overall project. Additionally it is essential that the Institute, refurbished in this manner, has a clear community focus for all ages.

In making this recommendation we have sought a solution that ensures a steady future for the snooker club and that avoids the suggestion of part of the building being turned into a rental property, meaning that the whole space can be put to community use.

On this basis the Working Party recommends we submit an expression of interest to the funders of the Great Places scheme (a Heritage Lottery Fund and Arts Council grant programme) in pursuit of option five.

It is essential for grant funding success to show that the project complements other local facilities, provides a clear, measurable benefit to the area and has significant merit.

It must be made clear, nothing is set in stone, as the Working Party also recommends the option put forward to the town council should have further exploration and explanation. This will be carried out by a second community consultation in the form of public meetings and open days, alongside an online survey. This or any other idea must be fully assessed by the people of Porthleven and importantly, whether the community supports it.

Porthleven Town Council responds to Trevor Osborne over the Bickford-Smith Institute

Porthleven Town Council has in a robust and fit and proper way responded to an open letter from Trevor Osborne, owner of the Harbour and Dock Company in Porthleven. The two letters are over the formation of a ‘Friends of the Bickford-Smith Institute’ organisation, and the name for collecting any funds for the preservation and use future of the building.

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The original letter from Mr. Osborne

The response from the Mayor on behalf of Porthleven Town Council

The response from the Mayor on behalf of Porthleven Town Council

Posted on the official Friends of the Bickford-Smith Institute Facebook page, the working group which is made up of town councillors and residents has issued a briefing documentation to bring people up to speed on what has happen so far. The group have always been clear that the process of looking in to its future use will not be done quickly, as it is very important that the people of Porthleven are consulted, and are happy with its future use. The future use has also have to financially sound, especially over any grant funding that will hopefully be awarded.

imageimageimageThe working group has spent a lot of time gathering information and are still working on various ideas. No idea has been ruled in, or out. The pictures below will give some idea of a possible future use of the building.

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So there you have it, the story so far. The progress of the working group will also be discussed at the September meeting of the town council which will take place on the 8th at 7pm.

The possible future use of the Bickford-Smith Institute

At June’s Porthleven Town Council meeting, the Institute working group shared with the wider membership of the town council their proposals for the future use of Porthleven’s most iconic building. These proposals have taken into consideration the feedback from the open day with the aim on to how best how to renovate this iconic building.

 

As you see from the pictures above, this building has a lot of potential. However, due to the sheer scale of money needed which will be in excess of £600k, and may be closer to the £1m mark, the working group have put forward what will be seen as a controversial use. Namely to turn a part of the building into a holiday let. The part which is a proposal to turn into a let is the former caretakers home – which currently home to the town clerk’s office and the council meeting room.

The principle behind this is because whilst some of the money needed to renovate this building will come from grants, not all the money will be found this way. This means the town council may have to take out a loan as part of the project. Of course, this loan has to be paid back, and instead of just adding the repayments to the town council precept ie. the tax payer, the proposal is to turn part of the building into a holiday let to give an income to repay any loan or costs for renovation.

 

I am not part of the working group, so I have had no input on the direction, but for me the renovation and preservation of the building is paramount. The sheer scale of funding needed has I believe pushed the working group into looking at the holiday let option. The question is, is this the right option?

As I said before, I want the Institute to have a long future, but I am not sold on the idea of turning parts of the building into a holiday let. Holiday lets are a controversial subject in Porthleven. So is it right for the council to turn part of its building into a holiday let? Maybe instead of a holiday let, income could be raised renting it long term? 

However, is the holiday let option the only one that will give enough income to pay for/support the Institute for its renovation?  After all, the majority of the building will still be used for the community. Any idea including holiday let, long term rental or other business use will have to be costed to make sure it stacks up. Only then will there be a firm idea of what works and gives the income needed. 

Furthermore, I was disappointed in the update did not confirm a place for the snooker club, which I believe they should be part of the institutes future. Rather the update said:

“The consultation to date indicates that there is a call for a Snooker Club in Porthleven. The Working Party recommends that consideration be given to the Snooker Club in order to arrive at an amicable solution, with the possibility of relocation being discussed, and further meetings and consultation will be undertaken”.

The important part of all this is the proposals shared at the meeting are not set in stone. There will be a further round of public consultation where people can have a further say. So a lot can and no doubt will change from now and the final plan.

Porthleven Town Council wants to hear your views on how the Bickford Smith Institute should be used.

Porthleven Town Council is seeking views from the community on the future use of the Bickford Smith Institute. Currently, the town council use the former institute cottage as their administration office and meeting place, with the main hall being used as the snooker club.

This is a public building and the town council therefore believe this building should be accessible and used by the whole community in a variety of uses.

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Furthermore, the building itself needs a lot of work to its structure. The building is getting old and has faced the full force of the elements for over 134 years. This has taken its toll on the building and the material state of the building needs to be addressed sooner than later.

The work required is not going to be cheap, » Read more