The Castlegate Preservation Trust, set up last year, is looking for new Board members and advisers who are up for a real challenge. The Trust is focused on improving the heritage buildings in the Castlegate area of Sheffield, but its top priority is to save the city’s neglected and deteriorating Old Town Hall and Courthouse, in Waingate. ‘2018 is a critical year’ says Trust chair Valerie Bayliss. ‘The Old Town Hall is in a bad state and getting worse. It’s owned by a London-based private company who don’t appear to have any plans for its future. We want to rescue it and turn it into the asset for the community that it ought to be. And this is the year we really want to start putting our rescue plan into operation’.
The owners, G1 London Properties Ltd, put the building up for sale a couple of years ago, says Valerie, and the last advertised price was £3m. ‘They don’t seem to have had any offers to pay that, which is no surprise as we’ve had a professional valuation that it’s worth nothing at all in its current state because of the big repair bill’. So the Trust was set up by the Friends of the Old Town Hall as a body that would have the ability to acquire the building and bring it back into use. ‘This will be a big task’ she adds, involving fund-raising on a large scale and then a major building project, before the Trust’s ambitions for offering the place as a facility for the community can be implemented. ‘We currently have 3 foundation trustees with experience in the heritage management, public and third sectors. They and the Friends’ organisation have done a lot of preparatory work, having won grants from among others the Heritage Lottery Fund, the Architectural Heritage Fund and Sheffield Town Trust.
‘This has given us an initial business plan, a model for future uses based on professional appraisal of the building’s potential, detailed costings for the repair work and architects’ proposals for phased restoration. We’ve been discussing with the City Council how they could help us with acquiring the building, and considering whether a community share issue would be the way to raise the purchase price. Now we need to strengthen the Board with new members with a range of skills and experience: people with property-based experience, especially if they’ve been involved in converting heritage buildings; people experienced in the kind of business we aim to operate from the building, like provision of workspace, cafes and bars, performance spaces and meeting facilities. We need commercial acumen and financial and legal expertise’.
The Trust offers the option of trustee board membership, or joining a panel of advisers who can be called on from time to time. It knows that this isn’t a task for the faint-hearted! Rather, it will be a long and quite complex job, but one it believes will offer the satisfaction of transforming what’s currently a blot on the Castlegate landscape into a facility that Sheffielders can be proud of.
The Trust has set up an informal recruitment process to give interested people the chance to say what they can bring to the Trust and to meet the foundation trustees and decide if there’s a good ‘fit’. ‘We know this has to be a two-way process’ says Valerie, ‘and we want people who are really keen. Just email us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you’re interested and we’ll send you more information.