Hough End Hall, Hough End Hall Academy and the future of the Friends of Hough End Hall.

Our group, the Friends of Hough End Hall was established in 2013 to bring the then vacant Hough End Hall back into use, emphasising its heritage value and its potential as a hub for the local community. We did a lot of work on several fronts:

  • Getting the building listed as an “asset of community value” which meant a period during which its sale was prevented, giving the community a chance to plan and bid for it.

  • Raising awareness locally and consulting with the local community over the future use of the Hall.

  • Obtaining a small grant to help work up our proposals, which included incorporation as a charitable company, engaging an architect, developing a business plan and making further grant applications.

  • Lobbying Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) (the owner) and the Treasury (part owner of RBS) to ensure that the building did not fall into the wrong hands.

  • Applying for funding from the National Lottery Heritage Fund to both restore the building and bring it into effective community use.

  • Conducted other fund-raising activity.

  • Carried out some of the research and the illustrations which led to the publication of our book, Hough End Hall: The Story (available from the Bookshop and the Library in Chorlton).

Our plan was for the building to be a community hub and to become self-financing after an initial restoration and start-up period. To this end we worked with a local charitable institution towards a joint project to buy the Hall and achieve this, but sadly this fell through.

In Summer, 2015, the building was sold by RBS to a local group who planned to run the Hall as Hough End Academy, for a health promotion programme orientated largely towards the South Asian community. Dr Pasha, who has led this project, first made enquiries of ourselves before approaching RBS: it was our campaign that helped raise awareness of the building among potential buyers, helping RBS (and the public purse) dispose of the building.

In October, we published the following statement on behalf of the new owners:

The building is now owned by a local charity and will be called ‘Hough End Hall Academy’. It will be used for educational purposes. The Academy will be responsible for preserving, protecting, and restoring the building and its rich history. Hough End Hall Academy are making their official website and request the community to use it for future information and suggestions. In the meanwhile, suggestions are welcome and can be given in the Suggestion Box that will be arranged to be placed outside the building. The Academy is preparing the building and will invite the community as soon as the building is in a presentable condition.

Please do not hesitate to contact us if you need any further information.”

In January we had a group to group meeting which was very friendly. We believe that, although it was not the project we had in mind, the Hough End Hall Academy project is a worthwhile one, well resourced and orientated to meeting a community need: one of the things we wanted to see happen.

We are less confident about the heritage dimension: it does not appear to be a major interest of the Academy, although they did express interest in co-operating with some of our members on things like a heritage display within the building. However, we do not know whether the responsibilities of the owners of owning and maintaining a Grade 2* listed building were fully understood. Since then we have had only limited contact with the group. They appear to have been faced with some challenges with the fabric of the building, so their time-scales for establishing the project will be longer than originally anticipated. So far there does not appear to be a website or other information publicly available.

We are aware that there has been some speculation in the local community about what the new users are doing, including a rumour that it is, or will be a mosque. We have been told that this is not the case: there is a prayer room within the building, but we have been informed that the function of the building is to be a health education centre.

Friends of Hough End Hall will continue to maintain a watching brief over the building. Our concern is still that this asset, with so many local memories, is made available for the benefit of the community, and that its heritage value is preserved and promoted. However, since we will not be responsible for the building ourselves, our project will run at a lower level. We are exploring the possibility of erecting a public information board as a lasting source of infomriation about the Hall. We are likely to wind up the charitable company but continue in existence as an unincorporated community association. We will also remain available to assist the current owners where possible and where this role is consistent with our “watchdog” function.

A packed meeting about the Hall

Yesterday, Saturday 28 March, we held a public meeting to update our supporters on the progress made by the campaign and the current position.  Some 40 people attended the meeting in the community room at Chorlton Library.IMG_20150328_143340

Carolyn Kagan, secretary of the Friends of Hough End Hall gives the latest news.

Here is a summary of what we said.

Progress of the Sale of the Hall

The Friends of Hough End Hall had to withdraw from the bidding process after being unsuccessful in the bid to the Heritage Lottery Fund. RBS, the Hall’s owner, then set a deadline for bids from other interested parties to be submitted.

Not long before the deadline we were contacted by an agent for a charitable foundation endowed by a prominent and well respected entrepreneur who wanted to submit a bid for the Hall, incorporating the community interests and working with the Friends of Hough End Hall.

We were obviously delighted with this and after some discussions and meetings agreed to be a part of this bid, which was duly submitted. Full details of how any partnership arrangements would work are still to be worked out but we can assure you we are approaching this with careful risk analyses – particularly as far as any financial commitments might be concerned!

RBS received and reviewed all the bids and decided in January to work with three bidders (of which ‘our’ charitable foundation was one) as they refined their bids, clarifying any conditions they had put alongside their offers.

The last we heard (just before our public meeting on March 28th) was that RBS was commissioning a full condition survey with any associated specialist surveys needed (such as timber surveys) to give to the prospective bidders, to help speed up the process.

For us, this is a little frustrating as we had reached this point last August, by which time we had already got a condition survey completed and had professional costings of the repairs and restoration needed for the Hall. Had RBS agreed to work with us without the messiness of other bidders, we could have been a lot further forward by now!

So… we still do not know what role we will have in the event of the Hall eventually being sold. We hope the charitable foundation will be successful and that we will be able to form a constrictive partnership for the future and ensure the Hall is made available for local people.

Read more in our Bulletin no. 10,  March 2015

There was a lot of interest at the meeting with people (including local politicians) keen that the Hall really does become an asset for all the community while preserving its heritage value.

The meeting also heard from Andrew Simpson and Peter Topping about the book they plan to publish in May.  It will be a history of the Hall, focussing not just on the wealthy people who built and owned the Hall, but also on the many people who have been part of its local community.

Thanks to everyone who turned out, giving us such a great show of community support for the efforts of the Friends of Hough End Hall.  Whatever happens with the sale of the Hall we will continue to work towards its preservation as a heritage and community asset.

Success! Royal Bank of Scotland delays sale of Hough End Hall

Next steps in the campaign to Make It Ours as RBS delays sale of Hough End Hall.

Thanks to everyone who supported our campaign to persuade RBS to defer the sale of the Hall to give us sufficient time to arrange funding for the purchase. Following recent correspondence we can update you on the encouraging progress we’ve made.

Background

The Hall, which we want to make available as a resource for the community of South Manchester, is currently owned by the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS), through its subsidiary ‘West Register’. We succeeded in having it listed as a ‘community asset’ which meant a sale could not be concluded until 25 November, 2014. While the Hall had been vacant for more than two years, there was pressure from the Treasury for RBS to get rid of its property portfolio as pay back for some of the government’s bail-out. Our problem was that our best chance of raising the money to buy the Hall is through a big grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF). But although our meetings with them have been encouraging, it will take time and a considerable amount of work to demonstrate that our plans to run the Hall are water-tight, and they won’t be able to make a final decision on funding until December, 2015 at the earliest.

What we did

So we decided to petition to Ross McEwan, Chief Executive of RBS, George Osborne, Chancellor of the Exchequer ,and Vince Cable, Secretary of State for Business.

In only two weeks we obtained 500 signatures (on the Change.org website and on paper) so at that point we closed the petition and submitted it, together with letters to the three people.

Much to our surprise George Osborne wrote to RBS. Soon after this we received a sympathetic letter from him, and he enclosed a letter from RBS’s Executive Investigation Department (for some reason our own copy of that letter did not arrive until later). The letter said that our aims are consistent with their new found orientation community focus, but first we had to make a bid for the Hall. This we did, and RBS have now confirmed they will not contract with another party until the determination of our first round bid. If we are successful at this stage, RBS will give consideration to extending the period during which they hold the building until the results of the second round application to the Heritage lottery is known. Successful Stage 1 application indicates a good chance that a grant will be awarded (although it is of course no guarantee). We will know the outcome of Stage 1 in December.

So this is great news and we could only have got this far with the support so many of you have given us.

Next steps

We have two grant applications in now. The first is the HLF stage 1 application, a very detailed document that sets out our plans for the building and its restoration, with a business plan. The application is for the purchase price, restoration costs and costs of running the building while it becomes financially viable. The second application is a feasibility grant application (building on work funded by our current pre-feasibility grant) for some of the costs involved in developing plans, doing surveys, etc. in preparation for assuming responsibility for the building.

Crowdfunding, what is it and how does it fit in?

You will also be aware that we are also trying to raise a separate sum of money by crowd-funding. This is a way of putting together a lot of promises of donations from individuals and organisations. The appeal runs until 31 january.

We are not trying to raise the purchase price of the Hall through this – it is too much to ask. It is, instead, to fund some of the heritage activities (a Heritage Walk, a book about the Hall, a Mobile Exhibition, and a high quality interactive website), that will be an essential part of the Hall’s new life as a Heritage-based community resource. But even if we don’t acquire the Hall, the heritage activities will still be established (if we meet our crowdfunding target, and we’ve a long way to go) and they would keep the idea of returning the Hall to the community alive for the future.

Most important, our success with crowdfunding will increase our chances of landing the big Heritage Lottery Fund grant. It will show the support of the local community, not just in words, but financially. So again, please, please do support this, and do spread the word. Remember, you pay nothing unless and until we reach our target.

Finally, thanks to everyone for the support you’ve shown so far. We have achieved our first major success and are confident about making a very strong attempt to Make Hough End Hall Ours over the coming year.

We got listed!

We are thrilled to hear that the Council has made the decision to place Hough End Hall on the Register of Assets of Community Value. So, once the owners, (West Register, part of RBS) tell the council they are wanting to dispose of the land, and we confirm we want to bid, we should get 6 months during which they cannot conclude a sale to anyone else. The legislation lets them continue negotiating with someone else but not conclude a sale.

We will need to make sure we make a good bid!

Thanks to all who supported the nomination, especially Chorlton Civic Society.

 

good news – the nomination of the community asset is going ahead

We have nominated Hough End Hall to be put on the register of Community Assets. We have just heard that Manchester City Council considers the nomination valid. Thanks to the Chorlton Civic Society for making the nomination. Now there is an 8 week decision making, period.  This is an important step: if the Hall eventually gets put on the Register, there will be a 6 month moratorium during which the owners of the Hall cannot sell it to anyone else whilst the community prepoares a bid. So, watch this space for more news.

Hough End Hall – new front page

We have just reorganised this website so that this home page will now contain the latest news on our campaign.

Today we heard that our application for the hall to be recognised as a community asset has been assessed as a valid application.  That means that the proposal has to be consulted on prior to being considered formally.

We’ll bring you further news as soon as we have it.