It is now over 5 years since a public meeting was held on 1st July 2015 to form the Charnwood Community Management Association. The meeting was successful and we now have a committee of which Bernard Eddleston is the Chairman. We also have a Secretary, Treasurer and four other committee members. It is now also registered as a Charity by the Charities Commission. We are having our 5th AGM online on 20 October 2020 at 4.30pm, and at last we are beginning to talk constructively with North Herts District Council.
We have also been joined by Mrs Ann Moss Adams, as patron. She is a descendant of the original donors of the house to the community.
The aims of the association are to acquire and maintain the building for community use, providing a community hub for Hitchin residents with an emphasis on supporting those groups with an educational focus. The Council has already demolished Bancroft Hall and there is now a lack of Community facilities in the centre of the town. Whilst the refurbished Town Hall will provide some facilities this will be mainly for larger groups, functions and events and we do not see the use of Charnwood for Community purposes detracting from the Town Hall but rather complementing it.
Unfortunately the Museum saga has resulted in NHDC refusing to declare Charnwood “surplus to requirements”, and it is still being used as a storeroom for the museum’s artefacts. And the building continues to deteriorate due to lack of maintenance.
The Government through its Locality programme are encouraging Community groups to come forward to take over and manage community buildings for the benefit of residents. A number of funds have been established to enable this to happen. These government funds are available to local groups such as ourselves to carry out feasibility studies and then acquire community assets. In July 2015 we applied to SIB (Social Investment Business) for a pre-feasibility grant so that we could convert the Association to a Charitable Incorporated Organisation, carry out a survey of the building to establish what repairs needed to be carried out, prepare some outline drawings of the building together with first ideas on potential improvements to suit community needs. We would also put in place all the necessary policies and procedures for good governance of the organisation, establish a website, survey public needs, contact local groups and draw up an outline business plan.
Our application was successful and we have been awarded a grant to cover these activities. We have now had access to the building, have initial plans on how we could develop the building, and done some initial thinking on how we could make the building a useful Community asset. We also have some idea of what it will cost to put the building into a fit state of repair, and to then fit it out for its new life as a community asset.
We have renewed the registration of the building as of community interest.
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