A community group which is aiming to save a historic building has received a cash boost. The Friends of the Royal Oak have announced that the Architectural Heritage Fund has awarded them a match funded grant of £14,000 in order to complete a Project Viability Study, related to the Royal Oak building on Cheadle’s High Street.
A community group which is aiming to save a historic building has received a cash boost.
The Friends of the Royal Oak have announced that the Architectural Heritage Fund has awarded them a match funded grant of £14,000 in order to complete a Project Viability Study, related to the Royal Oak building on Cheadle’s High Street.
The grant has been awarded based on the group’s plans to re-purpose the Royal Oak into a community building, which would see space used by community groups supported financially by commercial elements such as a bar, restaurant and guest accommodation. As previously reported, Cheadle Town Council had already contributed £500 towards the match funding.
A spokesperson from the group told the Times and Echo: “This is huge news for the group, we can now really start moving forward with our plans. This study will help us when it comes to securing other grants and other types of funding streams.”
The group are currently completing the paperwork associated with the grant and work on the viability study is expected to start soon.
In addition to the grant, the AHF have allocated the group some additional time with a business advisor, as the grant amount was reduced by £1,000 due to the number of applicants.
Around the same time, the group were also awarded some free training, as part of the Rebuilding Heritage scheme. The focus of these courses will be business planning and fundraising.
The spokesperson from the group explained: “Members of our group have a mixture of backgrounds and experience. The training will help us to develop our skills and manage the project more effectively.
“As the Royal Oak is a grade II listed building, it’s important that we understand what impact that will have, so the Rebuilding Heritage scheme seemed like a great fit.”
Meanwhile, the Friends of the Royal Oak have revealed their findings after carrying out a survey regarding the former public house building.
At the end of March, the group launched a questionnaire online to gather the opinions of the public, on various ideas they had for the building.
When the questionnaire was closed to responses, a total of 660 people had filled it in.
The first question asked, was whether people were happy to see the building turned into apartments. 86.4 per cent of people answered “no”, indicating they wouldn’t like to see it turned into apartments.
Mike Plant the Vice Chair of the friends group, said: “This first question proved to be a little controversial, as the questionnaire ended if people answered yes.
“While this did cause some confusion, it was important we got a clear indication of whether people would like to see something else happen to the building.”
Gough Investments who own the building, are currently seeking planning permission to turn the building into ten apartments, after their planning permission for eight apartments and two offices lapsed in 2018. Over the last few years, there has been a lot of concern within the community, regarding the rundown state of the building.
A spokesperson from the friends group further said: “Our group formed after attempts were made by various parties to find a buyer for the building while it was on the market, including hotel and restaurant chains.
“As a group we’re not attempting to hinder the owner’s development plans, but we believe the building could be put to better use.
“There is already substantial flat/apartment accommodation above the High Street, some of which is empty.”
The second question in the questionnaire asked whether people would prefer to see the building used for community use supported by commercial elements, or a commercial enterprise (e.g. pub) which would include space for community.
Mike explained the reasoning behind this question: “This question was included, since over the last few months within the group there wasn’t a clear direction. It was felt this question would help gauge where support from the public would come from, therefore helping us to choose a direction.”
64.7 per cent of people who answered the question (570 people) answered they would prefer to see a commercial venture in the building. 31.2 per cent of people who answered, said they would like to see a community hub.
Despite the strong support for having a commercial venture in the building, the Friends of the Royal Oak committee are still pursuing the idea of community space supported by commercial activity.
A spokesperson for the group said: “At our last meeting we decided to not alter the direction of the group. We think perhaps the term community hub has been misappropriated of late and didn’t properly convey our intentions for the building in the questionnaire.
“There is no question within the group that the building needs to make money and some kind of bar has always been in our plans. However, we don’t think it would be financially viable to re-open the building as just a public house.”
Other questions asked in the questionnaire, related to what type of bar people would like to see and whether it was thought Cheadle could support another café and how often they would be used. The final questions related to commercial activity, were about type of guest accommodation and price range people felt would work in Cheadle.
A question related to the community space, showed that people would most like space in the building to be available for groups to meet and hold activities. The second most popular choice was the space to be used for heritage based displays.
The friends spokesman said: “The questions related to community was kept to a minimum, as we envision community groups managing this space themselves and they will likely want to carry out their own research. There were several ideas suggested other than the main three we set. So many we had to recreate the graph.”
The group intends to conduct further market research online and once it’s possible, also issue paper questionnaires to capture the opinions of people who are not active on social media.
The Friends of the Royal Oak can be contacted directly via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, or through their Facebook page at fb.com/royaloakcheadlestaffs.
The group is working on a website, to be launched soon with the help of SO Marketing.
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