Funding would be ‘first step’ in bid to save Barnstaple’s historic Oliver Buildings

PUBLISHED: 08:00 27 January 2016 | UPDATED: 09:50 27 January 2016

Speculation still surrounds the future of Barnstaples historic Oliver Buildings, pictured as they were when the old railway bridge still crossed the River Taw. Picture: Museum of Barnstaple and North Devon

Speculation still surrounds the future of Barnstaples historic Oliver Buildings, pictured as they were when the old railway bridge still crossed the River Taw. Picture: Museum of Barnstaple and North Devon

Archant

“The developers have questioned whether there is enough support for arts and creative industries in North Devon but we think there is.”

Speculation still surrounds the future of Barnstaple's historic Oliver Buildings. Picture: Andy KeebleSpeculation still surrounds the future of Barnstaple's historic Oliver Buildings. Picture: Andy Keeble

A team behind a bid to save Barnstaple’s Oliver Buildings says it is closing in on funding to help create a viable case for their long-term future.

The Barnstaple Buildings Preservation Trust (BBPT) said it had been actively pursing various funding streams and was looking to ‘get the numbers on the table’ by the end of February.

In September, the Gazette revealed details of the trust’s vision to see the buildings retained as a ‘cultural gateway’ to Barnstaple – part of a wider plan to rejuvenate creative industries in the town.

BBPT chairman Jonathan Rodney-Jones said the group was ‘working collaboratively’ with developers Wessex Investors following a meeting in December.

Inside the old Shapland and Petter factory. Picture: Museum of Barnstaple and North DevonInside the old Shapland and Petter factory. Picture: Museum of Barnstaple and North Devon

He said negotiations were good, despite the developer’s appeal to the Department of Culture, Media and Sport to see the buildings de-listed by Historic England.

“Now time to see if we can move forward and we are looking to the Architectural Heritage Fund (AHF) as well as other potential funders,” said Rodney-Jones.

“We don’t have a letter of intent from the developer but the AHF has seen the project and is happy to bend the conditions to help us.”

“By the beginning of March we are hoping to have the funding in place to carry out the first stage of the feasibility study.”

Those behind the bid said a ‘Made in Barnstaple’ theme was central to the building’s future success.

BBPT member Alison Mills, development manager at the Museum of Barnstaple and North Devon, said the Oliver Buildings could ensure the arts and creative industries were a ‘genuine area of employment’ for young people in North Devon.

“Barnstaple once punched above its weight and was on the map as a cultural centre,” she said.

“The town has a history of being at the forefront of manufacturing and design and there is no reason why that should not happen again.

“The developers have questioned whether there is enough support for arts and creative industries in North Devon but we think there is.

“The Oliver Building offers fantastic big open spaces with the flexibility to respond to the different needs.

“We think we can fill it; we think North Devon deserves it.”

Mr Rodney-Jones said the trust had spoken to a number of manufactures and was looking to hear from people who would support the project.

“There is a feeling that if the facility was available, they would do business there,” he said.

“We now have around two months to get the numbers on the table and give the developers a clear idea of what can happen in those buildings.

“One possibility is that we offer to take on liability for the buildings with a contractual agreement to get the work done within a certain time frame, say two-to-three years.”

People can find out more about the trust’s proposals at the next Real Food Market in the Pannier Market on February 14. Details are also available on the trust’s Facebook page.

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