Edwardian tearoom plan for former Co-op
An Edwardian themed tearoom and a business hub are among ideas being considered for the former Co-op store in Caistor Market Place, a meeting at the Town Hall heard last night (Tuesday, September 4, 2018).
About 70 people turned out to hear how the newly-formed Caistor and District Community Trust Ltd is progressing with its dream of breathing new life into 2-4 Market Place in Caistor.
Earlier in the day, the trust also hosted a separate consultation with 18 representatives of local businesses to help generate interest in the former store’s potential.
Alan Dennis, a former headteacher, local historian, and a driving force behind the community trust, opened last night’s meeting and acknowledged the input of fellow local residents Don Morgan, Helen Pitman, Jane Anderson, Steve Critten, and Neil Castle in steering the project forward.
Mr Dennis said the operators of the Lady Rose’s Edwardian Tearoom in Lincoln had expressed an interest in one of the ground floor retail units that fronts the Market Place.
Visitors to their site in Lincoln are greeted by a butler and maid, with information available about Edwardian events, costumes, customs and dancing which is of interest to school parties and tourists. Mr Dennis said the parlour is thought to be one of five best themed tearooms in the UK.
“They are looking to create a destination venue,” he said. “Coming to Caistor would give them space to do more projects.”
He added that a business hub in Grimsby is prepared to help establish a similar organisation in Caistor. For £25 a month, local businesses are currently able through the Grimsby hub to access ‘hot desking’ space, support with Human Resources, Recruitment, Health and Safety and Media and Advertising, advice on growing a business, and IT support for one year.
Mr Dennis asked Ms Anderson to present a statement prepared by Kathryn Moore of Heritage Lincolnshire.
In the statement, Ms Anderson explained that the options also included holiday accommodation and possibly some residential accommodation.
A major difficulty is that the cost of restoring the complex will be higher than the property’s worth. It is thought the whole project could cost about £1.9 million, with a conservation deficit of £900,000, she said.
“This means the Co-op cannot do this on their own,” she added.
The trust had gained the support of Heritage Lincolnshire and the Heritage Lottery Fund, and there would be an opportunity to bid for funding in the region of £600,000 in March next year.
There were indications that the trust’s negotiations with the owners, the Lincolnshire Co-operative, were on-going on a number of issues: It is expected that the trust will be able to lease the premises at preferential rates, but the length of the lease still had to be worked out – 10 years, 20 years and even longer were all mentioned.
A previously floated idea for an artisans’ courtyard might also be compromised, if it clashes with the owner’s hopes of putting residential accommodation in one of the five buildings that make up the complex.
Uncertainty over the legal requirements that regulate the conservation of a Grade II Listed building and whether more special period features of architectural interest could be discovered made it very difficult for the trust and the owners to plan ahead.
The trust has been registered as a community benefit society, meaning that it is a not for profit organisation, with the public able to buy shares that will give them voting rights. The minimum investment required to gain voting rights will be £5, the maximum £100,000. Each member has one vote, regardless of how many shares he or she holds. The shares do not go up in value, but the shareholder can cash in their shares and get back the money they put in if they give 180 days’ notice.
Community Benefit Societies tend to do well in funding bids because the awarding authority believes that the public invests emotionally as well as financially and that public support is vital for any project’s success.
Extra chairs had to be put out before the meeting started as the number of people exceeded expectations and last night’s turnout alone is likely to be significant.
Questions from the floor included:
a. How long might the project take? – It could be take up to the year 2020-21 or more.
b. Whether there was potential for warden-assisted accommodation on the site? – Not known.
c. How to make all the businesses that might operate there more visible to the public, eg, if the artisans’ courtyard was in place, and how to meet local parking needs? – The courtyard plan is still uncertain. The town council is currently considering how local parking facilities could be increased.
d. An observation that “it hasn’t been clear what you are up to.”
e. When the shares would go on sale? – The trust is applying for a bank account, a requirement before the shares can be put on sale.
f. Whether there could be an open afternoon at the site? – Probably not, due to current safety issues, although the Lincolnshire Co-operative has invested recently in preserving the structure.
g. Whether the frontage could be preserved but the rest of the complex demolished and rebuilt? – This would probably depend on conservation issues, but the public would probably not have a chance to influence what happened within the complex if just the facade was preserved.
h. A plea to keep up the pressure on Lincolnshire Co-operative to allow the courtyard to be built, and to consider approaching Power To Change for funding.
i. Whether the Lincolnshire Co-operative might not want to renew the lease if the trust were only given a ten-year term? – The funding providers would be looking for some kind of asset-lock built into the agreement.
j. An observation that £5 was a good investment and represented better value than buying a lottery ticket.