Update: story covered by the Bath Chronicle and Western Daily Press (I've seen the print edition but can't find a link to the storry online). A very friendly photographer from the Gazette & Herald came over so we'll see what they do. Also spoke with Regeneration & Renewal about a feature.
*** Photo and interview opportunity ***
An ambitious project by a rural parish council to provide affordable housing and community facilities will be officially opened this weekend (Saturday December 12).
Colerne Parish Council in Wiltshire bought the village’s dilapidated 150-year-old former school building in 2005 (pictured before refurbishment). The council consulted with residents on plans to completely refurbish the Old School.
The aim was to provide a better home for the playgroup, which was a long-term user, improved community rooms for hire on the ground floor and a new second floor which would have four, affordable one-person flats aimed at meeting local housing need.
Following planning permission, building work on the £550,000 project began in 2008 and has now been completed on time and on budget.
This is the first such affordable accommodation supplied in the village for many years. The parish council will be the landlord for the new tenants.
This Friday Colerne residents will get their first chance to tour the new building in a series of guided visits with the official opening on Saturday before the new tenants move in on Monday.
Symon Doliczny, Chairman of Colerne Parish Council, said: “The community has always wanted to see the Old School kept in use but it’s been a question of making the project sustainable.
“The success of this project is down to the volunteers on the parish council and in the community working with other organisations to turn an idea into reality.
“Now we really have a building to be proud of. This is an early Christmas present for us all.”
Richard Tonge, Colerne Parish Council member, who has driven the project from the start, said: “There was a distinct possibility that the community could have lost the building to a private developer. We’ve secured it for future generations and done so without putting a financial burden upon them.
“More than that we’ve been able to provide low-cost rented accommodation for single people in our village. We’ve also got a permanent home for the parish council, there is a much-improved venue for our playgroup and there is a better choice of facilities for community groups.
“We’re only a small parish council but we were determined to take on and see through this project because we knew we could make it work.”
The ground-floor comprises two community rooms, including a kitchen, toilets and a parish council office. There is a new disabled-friendly access. The popular village playgroup now has a modern and well-equipped home with a kitchen and toilet facilities. There is also a new storage and play area at the back.
The four flats on the second floor each have a cooking area and bathroom.
Funding for the scheme included £260,000 in grants from the former North Wiltshire District Council, £213,000 from the sale of the former parish council offices and an £80,000 loan from the Public Works Loan Board. The project has been backed by Wiltshire Council and local housing associations.
The running costs of the building will be met from rents and hire charges so that the facility does not become a drain on the parish council’s budget.
Notes for editors:
Photo opportunity: The Old School will be open to residents on Friday December 11 at 1.30pm and press and photographers are invited to attend. On hand will be former pupils of the Old School taking their first look around the new building. Also there will be parish council representatives, residents and children from the village school. There will be displays about the project including pictures of the work and the building as it used to look.
The official opening takes place on Saturday December 12 from 2pm-4pm with invited special guests. Press and photographers are again welcome to attend.
A second public open day takes place on Sunday December 13 from 11am-4pm.
Pictures from the Friday event will be available from Monday December 14 for press use. Telephone interviews with those connected with the project can also be arranged. Please contact parish councillor Phil Chamberlain.
The Old School is on Vicarage Lane, Colerne. Please park in the nearby Market Place if you wish to attend as there is no parking outside the building.
Architects for the project were Brooks Chartered Surveyors in Bath (see www.brookscharteredsurveyors.co.uk)
Principal builders were Gregory Thain from Box, Wiltshire (see www.gregorythain.co.uk)
Also supplying building services were Case & Trotman from Colerne
In 2005 the parish council sold its premises in the centre of the village and bought the Old School building from The Bristol Diocesan Board of Finance and The Trustees of Colerne Educational Foundation.
According to records held by Wiltshire Council, the original school was opened in 1853 but by the 1950s the school was already proving too small for the 180 children on the register. A new school was built which was ready in 1964 and the children moved into it in January 1965.
The Parish of Colerne is located between Bath and Chippenham and sits in the Cotswolds Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The council is made up of 13 volunteer members and a part-time clerk who serve a community of some 2,000 people including the military base at Azimghur Barracks.