The Chapelhay Community Partnership
Our Proposal for the Future u se of the Old Town Hall and The Chapelhay Gardens
Since this document was published we have been successful in gaining a lease on the Old Town Hall. The decission within the managment committee meeting was unanamous, Weymouth and Portland Borough Council have taken a lot of critism over the last few years, but there are many dedicated officers and councellors who work hard on our behalf because they love this town. This project celebrates their endevours also.
A big thank you to anyone and everone who have helped and supported the CCP and this project. Look out for the official launch in a month or so once the legal stuff is sorted out.
Anyone who wishes to contribute to the project or get involved can call Sue and Martin on 01305770608 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Who are We?
We are a local constitution based community group known as The Chapelhay Community Partnership made up of residents from the Chapelhay area and interested people from the larger locality.
What are our aims and objectives?
1. Our Aim
To generate a sense of community in the Chapelhay area, initially through
developing the Chapelhay Gardens for community use.
2. Our Objectives
Develop Chapelhay Gardens as a place which local residents of all ages can enjoy. To encourage young people to take an active part in the day to day running and development of the project. Provide recreational facilities for young people especially the age range 8 to 16
What have we achieved to date?
The partnership formed in October 2007 in response to local issues raised at the PACT meeting. We wanted to galvanise the voice of the Chapelhay community and raise the quality of life in Chapelhay.
The first issue was the state of the Chapelhay Gardens with the obvious drug dealing and its accompanying violence and threatening groups. In addressing this challenge our greatest achievement to date is a local sustained constituted community group with continuing positive and constructive dialogue with W&PBC, the Police and the Fire Service.
This dialogue has resulted in a positive and pragmatic working relationship that has enabled us to complete several enhancing small projects within the Chapelhay Gardens namely placing bins, benches, plants, tubs for planting, fencing and a mural within the gardens and clearance work that has made the whole area more visible and promoted the excellent view from that position. This has also attracted interest and commitment from local residents and other interested people. Our committee membership is now full.
A major highlight of our endeavours was the remembrance event held in February 2008. This honoured the historic events of 1645 which lead to the Battle of Weymouth in the English Civil War.
These events took place on the site of the Chapelhay Gardens, the Old Town Hall and the surrounding streets. Our event was well attended by the public, the Mayor and several councillors. This moved our committee’s attention to the historical significance of the Chapelhay area and we recognised the links that could be made to the notably historic Nothe Fort and Sandsfoot Castle.
More recently 7th February 2009 we organised a major event again to commemorate the battle and siege of Weymouth (1645) which was a resounding success. We marched with 26 re-enactors from the English civil war society, from sandsfoot castle (laying wreaths and firing musket salutes) via The Old Town Hall and the to the Nothe fort where we held a trial and mock executions lead and re-enacted by Alistair Chisholm Dorchester’s town crier. We enjoyed great local press coverage and the event was well attended with as much as 250 public attending over the period of the day, and 100 at least at the Nothe Fort trial.
There has been numerous requests that this event becomes an annual event not only by the local people we claim to represent, but also by people who attended on the day in an official capacity.
The Old Town Hall c1620 is a significant grade II listed building within the area of Chapelhay.
Since we recognised the significance of this we have explored many approaches and ideas that could retain this property as a community owned effective venue for the use of the community.
We do not have access to a quick fix solution at this stage suggesting that we are unable to respond to the W&PBC apparent deadlines set for a decision on the building’s future. Nevertheless we have formulated a proposal based on our perception of a realistic sustainable strategic plan. This includes both renovating the building and developing an economically viable concern that can generate not only income but also raise the profile of the historically significant events that happened in the area. This could attract a new sector of the tourist industry to Weymouth as a whole and extend Weymouth’s tourist attraction footprint.
Our proposal involves re-establishing the relationship between the Chapelhay Gardens and The Old Town Hall this enables the project to have the necessary commercial potential essential for its long term success as was stated earlier this is not a quick fix proposal. By working these two important pieces of heritage together the sum becomes greater than its parts.
The Old Town Hall
We propose to open the hall as a state of the art heritage centre focusing on the siege and battle of Weymouth during the English Civil War (1645). Many do not realise the importance of that battle; it potentially prevented a French mercenary army from landing in a southern English port and colonising this Island. This battle is the second most thoroughly documented battle during the Civil war period.
We see the Old Town Hall as a resource for the whole community and a venue to be hired out to community groups, such as historical societies, youth groups (e.g. the Chapelhay Community Playgarden Association) and small scale theatre groups with the occasional musical concerts. No conversion is necessary for our proposal so costs can be kept to minimum; the building is already fit for purpose once refurbishment has taken place.
Working with the gardens the Hall will provide an educational resource and base for the field study visits by schools, and other educational groups. This can be the place where participants can absorb, discuss and debrief what they have experienced as part of the living history on the Chapelhay Garden site.
The Chapelhay Gardens
The gardens are the jewel in the crown of old Weymouth town they hold the key to its success as they were part of the embankment that protected the Chapel Fort which stood on the site of the old Holy Trinity School before its destruction by a land mine during WWII. The Gardens were the main access up to the chapel and fort and the medieval town steps are still present on the land and some of the adjacent domestic gardens as is a medieval well and various other archaeological treasures.
Once this piece of land has been stabilised we propose to set up a living history open museum and creative work space. We would run paying workshops in woodturning, leather work, earth kiln firing, basket weaving and many more relating to the 17th century. As well as a historical resource we would utilise the large open area as a performing arts space, working with local groups and colleges to develop and galvanise a strong and vibrant contemporary arts scene with a realistic commercial potential.
So working together these two most important parts of Weymouth’s history and heritage can provide a future for the next generation to come.
The economic benefits of our proposal will become clear when one considers the proposal as an investment, not only in the immediate Chapelhay area but tourism as a whole.
W&PBC will save initially by not having the outlay of the refurbishment costs, the partnership will fund the refurbishment through grant funding, sponsorship and donations of skills and labour which will also help strengthen the links with the community and local businesses. Tudor Rose Architectural Masons, Green man Comprehensive Garden Services and others have already given time and effort to this project free of charge, and we continue to enjoy the support from new sponsors every day, however big or small their input.
We have already attracted a lot of interest in our plans and as the project progresses we will attract more interest through a web site, public events such as the February 7th 2009 remembrance March (in collaboration with the English Civil War Society) and the links we have begun to make with local schools (see strengthening partnerships) to name but a few. This positive publicity will bring in a new generation of sustainable tourism strengthening the inroads that organisations such as the ones Weymouth Civic society have already made in this potentially lucrative sector of tourism. This period of English history has attracted great interest recently and allowed projects such as the “Commandery” in Worcester to attract 1.8 million pounds of lottery investment. The 17th settlement in Portsmouth “Littlewoodham” has since gained charity status and gone from a few huts to a whole village now commanding an entrance fee of £15.50 for adults. Why should Weymouth be denied the prestige and tourist generated income, when its battles were far more important in the Civil War and still has the core battle site in public hands namely the Town Hall, the Gardens and parts of the council offices car park where this archaeology, as a result of the collapse of the wall, is being exposed as we speak.
The land known as the Chapelhay Gardens was of environmental concern before we became involved in 2007. There was extensive drug use, urinating, rodent infestation and it was a space full of significant levels of litter including potentially hazardous chemicals, drug taking detritus and fly tipping. In partnership with the Parks Department we have already cleared a huge amount of debris.
The Old Town Hall has been deteriorating over several years and is at risk of becoming an eyesore in our local landscape.
Both the building and the land as they stand, excluding essential repairs, are fit for the purpose of this project. All our proposals are non-evasive, work with the fabric of both the land and the building as they stand and intends to integrate their development into the surrounding area. By the projects very nature the proposed materials to be used are all natural.
With a wider view by increasing the attractiveness of Weymouth as a holiday destination we can contribute to the decrease in greenhouse gases caused by air travel. The project itself will have a very small carbon footprint and be part of ever increasing sustainable tourism.
Our project has education at its heart and we have already established that the English Civil War is part of the Secondary School National Curriculum. in fact students from Budmouth Technology College were with us from the start. As part of their Citizenship course, they observed and reported on the public consultation process we underwent which then fed into our constitution. The history department at Thomas Hardy’s school are very interested in what we are doing, and have asked us to discuss with them how we might be able to provide input into their A level English civil war coarse. Holy Trinity School also expressed interest and support.
Sociological maintenance and change is notoriously difficult to manage at the best of times. In fact even when an area has been suffering from neglect and under-investment positive change is not always welcome. One of the more successful and sustainable ways of delivering positive change into an area is to raise the expectation of the people within it. We have had feedback from local people, especially during and immediately after the 7th February event, containing ideas, suggestions and expectations of future events. We intend to incorporate as many of these ideas as possible to establish a combined project. This can then capture the imagination and, although it can be difficult to measure, we have already and intend to continue to raise the expectations of our community so the people within that community become self motivated and support the positive change.
Youth involvement is integral within the project and we already have youth representatives on our committee who are actively involved in planning and executing our activities and events. Future activities could include a multimedia web site, facebook site and blog which should be of particular interest to the youth of Chapelhay opening the opportunity for them to network with youth around the world therefore widening their horizons.There is even talk of a youth magazine to accompany the progress of the project. Finally we are aware that we have a prime opportunity to capitalise on the legacy of the Olympics for all age groups.
The Heritage at the core of this project speaks for itself and has already been commented on, but heritage as measured by the Heritage Lottery Fund also includes a people, their culture and way of life, especially when promoted to others outside that culture. Following on from the previous section this project aims to promote and celebrate that very culture past and present to as wide an audience as possible. This audience may have a particular interest in the English Civil War, the various time frames within the ages of the Jurassic Coast or have a particular interest in their personal ancestry. Ideas have been put forward to explore the possibility of a market in the USA especially in Weymouth Massachusetts. Some correspondence has taken place already to follow up this idea.
Our endeavours to date have led us naturally to work with local partners. These have included the Chapelhay Playgarden Association, Budmouth Technology College, The Old Rooms Pub, the PACT, Holy Trinity Church and the Fire Station. Through recent discussions we have extended these to include partners with mutual aims namely the Tudor House and The Nothe Fort. Along side these we are now in discussions with the Civic Society who offer their full support, see enclosed letter, the English Civil War Society who are willing to fully support us in future events and more recently the Friends of Rodwell Trail who are planning a Tudor celebration at Sandsfoot Gardens on 5 July 2009. We propose to continue to strengthen our partnership working with the various different departments within W&PBC to ensure that we are inspirational players in the future development of the historical educational facilities and tourism of Weymouth.
Our offer is to become the custodians of The Old Town Hall in a similar way that the Civic Society has become the custodians of the Nothe Fort, this is underpinned by our belief that the named building should be kept in public hands if at all possible. However as The Chapelhay community Partnership is a dynamic and proactive voice of the local community we are in talks with the heritage lottery fund and others to raise the purchase price for the building.
We reserve the right to submit a purchase price for the free hold of The Old Town Hall if the management committee agrees an out right sale is more appropriate in their view.
The offer of a freehold purchase is obviously dependent on the on going talks with HLF and other funding partners.
Therefore The Chapelhay Community partnership wishes to enter into a lease agreement with Weymouth and Portland Borough Council on The Old Town Hall, we offer a tenancy agreement with the Council as follows.
A lease of not less than thirty years, this allow qualification for major funding applications.
A peppercorn rate for the duration of the lease.
Refurbishment works sponsored and coordinated by Tudor Rose Architectural Masons, and carried out by skilled and qualified technicians funded and organised by The Chapelhay Community Partnership.
All works to be timetabled in negotiation with a council representative and in accordance with a building of grade II listed status.
Continued access to the Chapelhay Gardens as an essential part of the project for the reasons laid out in the main body of the text. We recognise that the safety of the gardens is under investigation at the moment. We ask that we be made party to the challenges and changes that are being discussed with the view that we may be able to make a positive contribution to their reinstatement as an open space to be used to complement the development of The Old Town Hall.