…isn’t blowing in the wind, it’s written down here.
The answer to what? All those odd questions people have about the new Cletwr building. What, When, Why, Where, Who, How etc.
Read on for enlightenment…..
So, what’s all this about a new building then?
After much consultation, it was agreed in 2014 to erect a wonderful new building on the Cletwr site, which will house a new shop and caffi, as well as a meeting room and offices to support our community activities. There should be some nice landscaping too, making the whole place a worthy ‘Gateway to North Ceredigion’
Sounds good. How much is this going to cost?
About £450,000. Plus VAT…(which we get back)
Wow! Not peanuts then. Where’s that sort of dosh coming from?
A mix of sources. We had £497,000 from the BIG Lottery Fund, of which about £300,000 went to buy the site. Then we have £172,000 from a Welsh Government grant and £88,000 from an EU grant. There have also been smaller grants from Ceredigion Council and Trusthouse. And of course a small amount in donations from locals, and, if necessary, something from the surplus generated by the shop and caffi.
Times are hard. Couldn’t that be better spent elsewhere? Bronglais?
You would think so, but actually no. Most of these funds are earmarked for particular purposes, particularly tackling rural poverty and deprivation. North Ceredigion is actually a relatively poor area, even if the poverty isn’t as visible as in ex-mining communities in the Valleys. The aim of Cletwr is (amongst other things) to tackle a number of issues affecting our community – isolation, poverty, lack of services – through providing local services and facilities. We couldn’t have used the money for anything else, and if we hadn’t had the money it would have gone somewhere else in Wales, to do something similar.
But why a new building? I like the existing one.
We all like the existing Cletwr. It’s home. We’ve been familiar with it for years, and it has a nice warm friendly feeling about it. But that feeling comes from the people, not just the building. It’s the volunteers, the staff and the customers who make Cletwr what it is. And to be honest, the existing building is a bit of a nightmare. It evolved over years with extension added to extension. It has lots of unused space, but that space tends to have rising damp! Some of the materials used include asbestos (don’t worry, it’s all safely sealed in, but we’ll have to be careful with the demolition). There are cracks in the walls underneath the render. The electrics are dodgy and the heating bill is a nightmare due to the windows and general lack of insulation. (We spend £6000 a year on electricity – a lot of it for winter heating!) The kitchen needs a serious overhaul. The old flat upstairs had been condemned. A lot of money and volunteer time is spent doing DIY and repairs. And if we’re unlucky, we may find the building deteriorates to the point when we fail to meet health and safety and environmental standards. All in all, not somewhere that we want to have to cope with for the next few decades, especially if we were forced to close..
The new building will be very different. It will provide attractive, functional and much better designed spaces, (and a bigger shop and caffi), but will also be a modern, environmentally sound building, with virtually no heating requirements. Solar panels will further reduce the overall energy bill.
But couldn’t you have renovated the existing building for less money?
Yes. We considered several options for this, but the costs would still have been substantial, and we would have had to either close completely for some months, (meaning we would have to lay staff off) or at least offer a very restricted service from a Portakabin or two. Cletwr is now a very successful and popular enterprise. We’ve spent three years training people to stop here. Locals value the convenience (and the atmosphere). If we closed for six months or a year then we’d be back to square one. By putting up a new building at the other end of the site we can stay open throughout the build period, and continue to offer locals and passers-by the same services that they’ve come to expect.
And what about the flat? Aren’t you making someone homeless?
Yes, we have one flat that is rented out to a local worker. The other flat couldn’t be rented out owing to the poor condition. (We now use it for storage and offices for some of our staff). The flat that is in use is in less than wonderful condition and would need considerable expenditure in the near future to bring it up to the standards we would like.
We are helping our current tenant to find alternative accommodation.
Longer term we are considering looking at accommodation requirements in the community. Obviously Cletwr is not a housing association, but if someone is interested in working on a project to identify what the demand for smaller rental housing in the area is, (and funds for the research may be available from Cyngor Ceredigion) then it may be possible one day to work with a housing association to develop a site within the community that will meet a definite need.
So when does this all happen?
Work will hopefully start before Christmas, and the main build phase should be finished by mid summer. Demolition of the old building will have to wait until November (we have bats in the loft, and we can only demolish during the winter!) Apologies in advance for any disruption, but we’ll be working with the Contractor to keep it to an absolute minimum, and ensure site safety is enforced.
Oh yes, what happened to the petrol?
It got dropped from the plans. The safety rules about selling petrol are horrendous, you tie up £30K of capital in the ground and make 2p a litre. And Davmor got a buyer and stayed open, which meant that the Lottery wouldn’t have given us a grant if we had petrol. So, no petrol..
Can I find out more?
3D illustrations based on the architects plans will be on display in the shop, and we’ll also have the plans on display as well. You can see more of the documents, business plans etc. on our build blog at http://bigbuild.cletwr.org.
Can I get involved?
Of course you can! The easiest way is just to keep shopping, drinking coffee and attending events as always. But we are always happy to see volunteers joining the team. Whatever you are interested in doing, we can probably fit you in. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 01970 832113. Donations of vast sums of money (or small sums of money) probably wouldn’t be turned away.