Future in the balance: Will Sneinton's Old School Hall benefit the local community in the future?

dOSH has been working hard to support and develop ideas for the future of the Old School Hall that ensure:

  • a secure future for the building structure itself, as part of Sneinton's Heritage,
  • a sustainable new use that means the building won't keep changing hands and end up empty and disused again any time soon,
  • a new use that brings real benefit for the local people and the local environment, with community access to the space.

In simple terms, we need to get the balance right:

    The Council has said that the status of the building as an "Asset of Community Value" will be taken into account if planning permission is needed to convert the building to a new use in the future. They have also stated that they are not obliged to accept the highest offer financially, but will take other factors in to account such as those listed above. To make things even more vital to get the balance right, the building is in an 'At Risk' Conservation Area, and is surrounded by 3 'super output areas' that are in the worst 20% in the "Index of Multiple Deprivation" (one area is in the worst 10% for deprivation). Getting the proposal right for the local area is naturally more important than getting the highest possible selling price.

    With bids for the building now being accepted, dOSH is keen to ensure that the Council has the means to assess these on the basis of their value BEYOND the simple £££. After all, we and the Council share a common interest in finding a purchaser who will be in it for the long term, a neighbour who will use the building in a way that improves the area (Council land surrounds the building on 3 sides) and who will provide a good FIT in the Conservation Area and help alleviate the deprivation endured by people locally.

    We have done the research and found a method for assessing proposed projects for their Community Benefit and Social Investment value. When we ran this by the Council they told us that it "makes some very good points and is certainly and excellent guide" to what they would be looking for.

    So we are suggesting that anyone preparing a bid should include this 'Community Impact Screening' documents as part of their submission. We've even turned it into a spreadsheet template to make it easy to fill out! Naturally, we'll be expecting to see the building passed on to a new owner who has a convincing, well supported and thoroughly researched plan in place...

    Watch this space!

    Links to the Community Impact Screening documents:

    dOSH resources page

    We need YOU- to have your say on the future use of Sneinton's Old School Hall. Take our 6 minute survey...

    dOSH is seeking YOUR responses to 3 potential ways in which the Old School Hall could be developed.

    In a hurry? Skip to our 6 minute survey.

    These options are all based on realistic scenarios and real approaches we've had from potential owners, tenants and users of the space, so at this stage each of the options could be considered financially viable (of course we will be proving that later, when we have the final proposal in place!).

    The whole point of dOSH, and the reason it came about, is to tap in to the massive groundswell of local support there is for the building and the local interest is its future. So at this point we really need to know what you think and why.

    Please take a look at the three options presented here, and then follow this link to take our survey. The survey itself should only take about 6 minutes, but this information you give us will be incredibly helpful in making sure we understand what people want to see happen, and why. When you've completed the survey, you'll get to see how other people have responded too...

    The first idea, "OPTION A", is for a Food Hub building.
    This would be dedicated to food production and learning about food. It would include a bakery, cafe and a large hall for education and events. Several small food businesses would be based in the building. There would be a strong association with the Windmill, making this a national destination as well as a local centre. Income would be generated by the food businesses paying rent, and by the hire of the hall for events.

    Gallery of images to explain Option A:

    The second idea, "OPTION B", is for an education or day centre.
    A secure part of the building will offer education or day support for people with disabilities, excluded school pupils, or maybe a nursery. There will be small teaching rooms and a larger hall used for the education/day centre during the day. During evenings and weekends the school hall can be booked for events. The rest of the building will be taken up by a large cafe and a bakery.

    Gallery of images to explain Option B:

    The third idea, "OPTION C", is for a Local Business Hub building.
    A charitable business would own the Hall and sublet part of it to a bakery/cafe. Part of the cafe area will be designed so that community meetings and small events can be held there. The rest of the building is offices for the company, which also offers 'co-working' or shared desk space, use of meeting rooms and other facilities to local groups and charities.

    Gallery of images to explain Option C:

    Thank you for reviewing the options. Please now take the survey!

    #SaveOurSpaces campaign- Locality looks in to "The Great British Sell Off"

    The Old School Hall in Sneinton is just one of the 4000 public buildings and spaces that are being disposed of every year by Councils up and down the land. Think of the number of Starbucks coffee outlets there are... then multiply by 4.

    In it's "Save Our Spaces" campaign, Locality is attempting to support "the local people who are fighting back."

    "They are coming together across the country to save these spaces, by taking them into community ownership.

    "These groups – usually small voluntary organisations and charities – are committed to protecting them as a vital hub in their community and a space to offer services for the whole community. And they are doing this with little or no help from anywhere else – with just the power of community on their side."

    The first step that Locality are encouraging is to register "Assets of Community Value", and that's what we have done with the Old School Hall (read about it here). The second step is to consider taking on "community ownership" of these buildings, to ensure that they continue to offer services to the local community, and in turn offer greater viability for the organisations that take them on:
    "...for those local voluntary organisations that take on these spaces it can mean greater financial sustainability and capacity to adapt to an ever changing funding environment. And these spaces offer vital hubs for local people that they exist to support."
    Locality recognise that there are times when a private sale might be the most appropriate course of action, but urges that credible community ownership plans are considered first and that community benefit is not ignored. In the case of the Old School Hall, the Asset of Community Value status protects the building from sale to a commercial bidder for a short period of time, but after that it will for sale on the open market. The ACV status will form a 'material consideration' if planning permission is required in the future, but essentially the building and site could well end up in private hands with no real influence from the community over what it is used for.

    No doubt community ownership is hard work: communities need to find resources such as money & professional skills that private developers have at the ready. Locality argues that the current 6 months moratorium time that gives communities a chance to get their acts together needs to be extended to a year, and that Councils should step forward with interest free loans to enable community groups to get started.

    Locality also argues that the benefits of community ownership are profound, from giving local people a chance to shape the place they live, to delivering services that meet local needs and accessing funding that Councils cannot reach.

    What do you think? Let us know in the comments, or over on Facebook. Passionate about the future of the Old School Hall? Then please, please take action!

    Century-old painting shows Windmill Lane, Sneinton

    A painting Windmill Lane by J H Berry has emerged. It shows what the area of the Old School Hall was like in the 1920s. 

    At this time the School Hall was part of a much larger school building that covered what is now the windmill car park. Looking down Windmill Lane towards St Stephen's Church, a horse drawn cart is seen emerging from the top of Walker Street, whilst a corner shop is attracting customers on the corner of recently-built Lord Street.

    Seeing the painting brought back memories for former resident of Nottintone Place, Alfred Harrison (80) who now lives abroad. He remembered many times as a boy coming out of the alley from their back yard to go shopping for the family at the corner shop.

    Above: a contemporary map of the area from 1916, showing the view point and the Old School Hall in red. You can see the same view now on Google Streetview.

    Do you have any old pictures, photos or even memories of the area? Please drop us an email to let us know! 

    See more about the Old School Hall's history