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COUNCIL BREAKS COMMUNITY’S HEART
“Don’t destroy your old buildings. You would
never destroy your family portraits” -Jaime Lerner,
“There’s no reason for this except malice”
“Past present and future wiped out at a stroke”
DEMOLITION WILL SCUPPER PLAN FOR PENICUIK
· Penicuik Community Development Trust offered to buy the former Jackson Street School building from Midlothian Council as a focus for activity and identity at the heart of the town.
· The Trust already had firm pledged support of £150,000
· The Trust’s proposals were supported by Penicuik and District Community Council
· The Trust’s proposals were supported by local representatives of youth
· Over 1600 people had signed the petition to stop the demolition at once.
· The Council are spending over £50,000 of our money to rip the building apart this week for no reason.
· The demolition team have been trashing the building from behind and from the inside first; the exterior fabric was set to come down in the current week unless the Council called a halt.
· This building next to the post office at the heart of the town is uniquely important to Penicuik’s heritage and future –and the level of local support has made that plain
· Destroying it is official vandalism –no other word for it.
· The Trust wrote to the Council’s Chief Executive to underline the level of public and financial support and to require that the demolition –of doubtful legality- must stop at once.
· The Trust’s business plan was focused on uses to underline community identity and empower its citizens young and old, as a first step to attract footfall at the heart of the town beside its public transport, shops and businesses.
· In floorspace, location and identity this building was our ideal.
· Its structural integrity judged safer-than-houses by the Trust, we knew our immediate lease prior to purchase would ensure its everyday health and security
· Our plans included a community and youth café, affordable business space, arts workshops, tourist information, local food market, and international record of the town’s proud achievements
· People here have shown they can run other successful self-financing ventures like Penicuik’s Ladywood Centre, and its Cinema, and its Community Arts Centre.
· There was massive support for the Jackson Street proposals. We wanted to get on with the job.
· We have worked round the clock for a positive outcome here with signatures in place and money on the table.
· We sought action before it was too late. Every minute counted.
Penicuik Community Development Trust: Scottish Charity SC037990
tel 01968 677854 Chair: Roger Kelly, Treasurer: Jane Mackintosh www.penicuikcdt.org.uk
if unavailable ring or text mobile 07726 862850 or email email@example.com
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With £150,000 already firmly pledged to us, the Trust could look forward confidently to paying the purchase price within the financial year 2010-11, the timescale in which the Council hoped to raise a receipt from sale on the open market but one which could it not guarantee.
There were around 1,600 signatories to the petition urging Midlothian Council to accept the Trust's offer – they grew by more than 800 in the last week and continue to come in.
We said it was essential that the Council issue an immediate instruction to suspend demolition and consider the community’s proposals before it is too late.
Our intention was that our
project, like all our projects after initial investment, should be
self-financing. To fund the purchase and refurbishment of Jackson Street School
we were assembling grants, supplemented by fund-raising and supportive
investment. A potentially large grant was under review by a funding
charity. Banking support was being pursued to provide leading edge
investment and the financial input on the timescale sought by Midlothian
Council. When the Trust wrote to the Council about our community
buyout plans for Jackson Street School on May 19th 2008, we reported that we
had had preliminary discussions with potential partners. Triodos has a
worldwide reputation as a sustainable Bank and specialises in financing social
enterprises like ours. It has invested some £30M in
All this was last week.
Back in October
Back in October 2009 we were carefully and confidently putting together all the positive elements of our proposals with interested bodies and individuals at meetings in the Town Hall. We prepared to implement them –it was going to be a hard but worthwhile and happy task to raise the money. The idea that the council’s response would be to demolish the building in our face did not occur to us. Would you have guessed it? Would anyone?
When the Council took the decision to demolish Jackson Street School on November 24th 2009, it was 18 months after it became aware of the Trust's preliminary proposals seeking to acquire the building by letter of May 19th 2008; it was 42 days since the Council had been formally in receipt of the Plan for Penicuik by letter of the Community Council of October 13th 2009, and was 23 days since it had received the Trust’s business plan for purchase by letter of November 1st 2009, handed over and recorded in person. We were reliably informed that there were no other offers for the site on the table. Given this long history documenting our interest, the Council must have given less weight to the Trust’s offer to purchase and more to the possibility that a speculative developer might emerge in the upcoming financial year, unless the Council have been negotiating secretly. Be that as it may, given our success in moving ahead on the financing as we said we would, the decision for pre-emptive demolition at a cost of £53,000 without guaranteed return was arguably reckless and legally questionable.
By last week, the information about finances and public support that we put to the Council must surely have underlined how critical it is to act immediately to stop the current destruction. Although the interior was then well on the way to being trashed, the structural shell remained intact. We understood that the shell would begin to be destroyed this week and made the essential request that the Council issues an immediate order to its contractors to suspend demolition work of this key community asset. This is a Penicuik building, raised by Penicuik efforts long ago, which Penicuik was prepared to purchase from its current owners (who had no further use for it) and refinance to guarantee its contribution to our future.
At this stage, every hour was vital to halt the damage.
The community’s buyout proposal for Jackson Street School was based on an intact building. Our business plan, which should have brought us to a balance of income and expenditure in three years, involved an income stream from use during the first year. It remained to be seen whether either the proposal to purchase or the cash flow remained viable after the last few days of destruction but we remained confident that the care of Penicuik would restore the building’s heartbeat, and that everyone would know this better if the Council allowed us to make the structural survey which the community had always requested and which they had always denied.
Our petition clearly showed the depth of people’s feelings for the building and its future, and the anger at the deliberate action being taken to destroy these hopes by the authority.
In its approaches to Midlothian Council the Trust emphasised its commitment to working in partnership with Midlothian Council to improve the well-being of our town and its people. It is a commitment we shared with the Trust’s major supporter in the Plan for Penicuik, Penicuik and District Community Council. The benefits of positive community action should be plain enough. We looked for a genuinely open partnership of trust.
Not a scrap of any such co-operation in relation to our proposals was forthcoming.
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Talk to your councillor, MSP, MP urgently.
Just one word from above could have stopped this demolition.
What went wrong?
Midlothian Council’s statement to the press on Monday 18 January
A spokesperson for Midlothian Council said; "The decision to demolish the former Jackson Street school building was passed unanimously at the November 2009 meeting of the full council on best value and public safety grounds.
"The disposal of this building was always part of the package paying for a major multi-million pound investment in facilities in Penicuik in recent years - including the refurbishment of the Town Hall, the new leisure centre/ swimming pool, the new Eastfield Primary School and the provision of the former Cuikenburn nursery for use by the Surestart project and the lease of the Ladywood Leisure Centre for the community. In total, the linked investment in facilities in Penicuik exceeds £20 million.
"The property was available on the market over the last three years, during which time the council was willing to consider any offer linked to a robust business case.
"Between 2007 and 2009 the council was contacted by Penicuik Community Development Trust (PCDT) on a number of occasions, but no formal offer, detailed business case and full capital funding package, was submitted by the trust.
"The council therefore decided to proceed with its demolition plans."
Midlothian Council’s reply to the Trust on the evening of 18 January
As you are clearly aware, Midlothian Council made the unanimous decision on 24 November 2009 not to agree to the Trust’s request to lease/purchase the property, but to proceed with the previous decision to demolish the building and remarket the site.
You suggest that there were two factors - lack of confidence in the finances and level of public support and now put forward information relating to both.
I have already advised you that in terms of the Council’s Standing orders (7.14), a decision of the Council shall continue to be operative and binding and no motion inconsistent with it will be considered or passed for at least six months after the decision, unless information which was not previously available becomes available. I have therefore reviewed your latest letter carefully with senior colleagues in that context.
The Council is seeking to achieve a capital receipt from the sale of the property. It is expected to be marketed at offers over £400,000. In terms of demonstrating best value, the normal practice is for all properties to be offered on the open market. However, on a relatively few occasions, the Council has agreed to proceed with a single interest. Therefore, for a solus deal to be agreed the Council would firstly have to be willing to do so and secondly for such a deal to be further considered, a legally constructed letter of offer would need to be available. I would also add that in the cases where the Council has agreed to progress such a deal, a premium payment above asking price has often been sought.
In terms of willingness to do a solus deal now, a political decision is required. For that to be even considered, a legal offer to purchase would be expected. Whilst I note there is a pledge of £150,000 plus indication from Triodos Bank that the activities planned fit the Bank’s criteria for lending, this does not provide a legal offer nor sufficient new information to currently invoke paragraph 7.14 of the Council’s Standing Orders.
I also note your comment that it remained to be seen whether either the proposal to purchase or the cash flow remains viable, given the ongoing demolition contract works and your reference to a structural survey. Does that indicate that any legal offer to purchase would have these further conditions attached to it?
In the circumstances, I do not consider I am in the position to instruct the suspension of the demolition works, which will result in the Council incurring additional costs. I would probably only do so if unconditional legal offer to purchase was received. Terminating the demolition contract will cost some £30,000. Even then, the matter would require to be taken back to Council for further instruction.
I again note the Trust’s willingness to work in partnership with the Council. That commitment is mirrored by the Council in terms of the wider Plan for Penicuik, but I cannot at this stage reverse the unanimous decision of the Council on the element which involves the former Jackson Street School.
More pictures Saturday 23 January
showing other sides and the full extent of Penicuik’s solid community building being wasted here.
“You can’t buy it till we’ve razed it to the ground”
A MATTER OF COMMUNITY LIFE AND DEATH
It is clear that this well-known and well-loved building can be saved for positive civic uses.
The Trust is keen to save it and would set up a limited company and pull in the money to do it –the community has shown its support and a rock-solid £150,000 has been raised in just three days. But there has never been the slightest interest or encouragement from the council to let us into an open market with the building still standing. They decided that unanimously last year. Thereafter events must take their course. Rules are rules. There can be no clemency or even delay unless a premium ransom is paid over at once (impossible for a charitable body like ours). The public execution will take place, it has already been paid for and the process is too expensive to stop. All in the name of best value and public safety. Should we watch the spectacle or turn our heads in shame? What do you make of it?
Updated 11am Monday 22 February 2010 Have you refreshed this page?
The full texts of the Trust’s letter of 17 January and the Council’s reply of 18 January are being placed on the website www.penicuikcdt.org.uk
A danger to public safety!
Look at the pictures of the building. Look at the community’s proposals for it.
Where are the secret reports on which this allegation of public danger was based, and which community groups were denied any chance to verify? We must assume they don’t even exist.
And now look at what the vandals have done.
Even the beautiful Penicuik stone gets pulversised in this very expensive public show of who’s boss.
A community’s future reduced to heaps of rubble.
“Don’t destroy your old buildings. They are your family portraits.
You would never destroy your family portraits” Jaime Lerner, Curitiba
Jaime Lerner talks http://www.ted.com/index.php/talks/jaime_lerner_sings_of_the_city.html
Trust Chairman’s letter to Councillor Russell Imrie
Emailed 15 November 2010, a fortnight after the business plan was presented
When I attended the recent successful Built Environment Summit at the Bute Hall in Glasgow I was encouraged by the support for recognising identity and history as a vital part of our community health and economic wellbeing. There was a wealth of wisdom, experience and encouragement available on the day which could give a welcome boost to volunteers, councillors and all who give of their time and energies in support of heritage work. Here in Penicuik we’re involved tangentially in the project to restore the Great Polish Map of Scotland at Eddleston www.makers.org.uk/place/Maczek . More directly, our Community Development Trust is preparing to restore the large Upper Walled Garden at Penicuik estate as a community food project. www.makers.org.uk/penicuik/walledgarden2009june.pdf
But it is the key project in the centre of our town that I write to you about. In Penicuik we have many important world individuals and international connections to commemorate – Penicuik’s special connections with Japan, Finland, France, Jamaica and Canada and our townspeople’s importance in cultural advancement, from papermaking to Concorde design, from naval tactics to American city planning, plant exploration, medical diagnosis and fashion photography.
We want to buy a wonderful traditional building in our town centre –Jackson Street School, one of the very modest but thereby important buildings that were talked about at the Summit. As you know the council has recently decided to demolish it and sell the site. We want to get this decision waived, because there is a chance for the council to realise its asset value AND the community to gain something of real long-term economic worth to bring people into our centre.
Jackson Street School itself was built many years ago by public subscription. Our Trust wants to buy it at its value and restore and run it –set in gardens- as a self financing operation, economically sustainable. We drew up a business plan that we handed in to Midlothian House on 2 November to show how this can be done: http://www.makers.org.uk/penicuik/JacStrSchBusinessPlan and prepared an emergency exhibition on the proposals: www.makers.org.uk/penicuik/jacstrsch
We have the opportunity to create something of real worth here, and a track record that shows we put community proposals into action. We are supported by the Penicuik and District Community Council, by the chair of the Penicuik Youth Forum and the Midlothian Youth Platform and by the Member of the Scottish Youth Parliament for this constituency. We are a sturdily independent charity and our proud record of achievement has been almost entirely supported by our own volunteers and hard-won financial reserves.
I’m writing this to seek your help and support and to put you in the picture. It is always an uphill task that volunteer groups like ours must face, and we understand that. But you will see the importance of using Scotland’s precious burgh assets positively to create value for our future.
chair, Penicuik Community Development Trust registered charity SC037990
Immediate past Convener,
the Royal Town Planning Institute in
Convener, Planning & Environment Committee, The Saltire Society
-Leaving in the morning for a fact-finding tour of New Zealand’s national and local museums.
The Trust’s packed Annual General Meeting in Penicuik Town Hall on 1 June 2010 resolved to become a company limited by guarantee, retaining its current charitable status, to help it to build up community assets. It also endorsed the Trust urgently developing proposals for community use of Penicuik’s Bank Mill and Fish Farm. See further details at
Penicuik grew dramatically in the 1960s and 1970s. From these beginnings local volunteer charity Penicuik Community Arts Association put together regular and varied displays of children’s art, paintings, sculpture, crafts, architecture, and local history. Four notable ones over the years were: Models and their Makers, the celebration of the buildings designed by F. T. Pilkington, the landmark historical exhibition Penicuik Looking Back and Memorable Clothes. In recent years, active volunteer charity Penicuik Community Development Trust has been organising themed exhibitions almost weekly in the Cowan Institute, Penicuik Town Hall. Some of them also go on display in Penicuik Library’s exhibition space.
Penicuik Saturday Museum in the Town Hall and Jackson Street School:
A few of over 100 Penicuik Open House weekly displays arranged by Penicuik Community Development Trust and its supporters to date
PART OF PENICUIK ARTS TRAIL 2012
Penicuik Trust’s CINEMA programme -over 150 feature films shown so far