Council Turn Down Heritage Vehicle and Skills Centre in Chester Green

Extremely sad and disappointing news that Derby Council have blocked the regeneration of the Aida Factory in its current state (The GNC Car Heritage project would have kept this locally listed buiding…..the council’s current plans knock it down…..and yes… was the regeneration dept. that were involved in blocking this regeneration!) . This was a once in a lifetime opportunity for the site, and Little Chester/Chester Green.

From Shaun Matthews at the Great Northern Classics Car Heritage project. We wish Leicestershire/Nottinghamshire well with this excellent venture that they will now benefit from 🙁

“Union Foundry (Aida) Little Chester – Heritage Vehicle and Skills Centre

Dear All

It is with great sadness that I have to report that we have arrived at the end of the road. Although we still await formal confirmation from Derby City Council, it appears we will not establish our Heritage Vehicle and Skills Centre at the Union Foundry in Chester Green unless there is an early and unexpected change of heart. We have pressed as hard as we can but minds now seem set and for the sake of the higher aims of the GNC project now is the time to draw a line under Derby.

Our proposal was enthusiastically received across the council and the wider community but was apparently stymied by a bureaucratic wormhole resulting from the source of the funds the council used to purchase the site. To overcome this we have proposed ways to design a mixed-use development (60+ homes plus our project), were prepared to fully reimburse DCC their purchase price (effectively making the flood wall land nil cost) and even offered the Council a substantial stake in our operation. Unfortunately, despite many of the officers and elected members agreeing the GNC project was the best outcome, the Council didn’t navigate around this funding issue, instead choosing to press on with housing in spite of the technical difficulties, heritage implications and local resident’s concerns. I genuinely, for the sake of the Little Chester residents wish DCC success in this endeavour.

You may recall that we started our journey nearly 2 years ago hoping to occupy the Bonded Warehouse at Friargate Goods Yard but it wasn’t feasible to bridge the funding chasm to restore. There are no other appropriate buildings in the City and therefore the Union Foundry was the only viable site for us. Consequently, with this now unavailable I can no longer see how we can open in Derby – This means that this magnificent building will be demolished bar it’s façade, we cannot look forward to the regeneration and economic benefits, save the skills or offer the opportunities to local artisans and training to the city’s youngsters. Simply we cant do that very good thing.

So, with a heavy heart, our search for a home has now moved to other East Midlands Cities. I hope that some of you can continue to be involved wherever we settle, to those who can’t or won’t make the move, I am very sorry and for your support and considerable effort I thank you on behalf of all of us at GNC, it’s been an absolute pleasure.

Watch this space!

Yours Sincerely

Shaun Matthews”

The most frustrating thing about this is that the council don’t even have any firm plans for the building. They did draw up plans for family homes (social housing), which we informed them wouldn’t be suitable as there were ground floor (and some ground floor only) dwellings. They also hadn’t put in safe egress to higher ground, which is now needed when proposing houses on a flood plain in close proximity to the flood wall…… so, after much expense, they finally listened to us and got advice from other depts. (can’t believe they didn’t do this in the first place) and scrapped the lot…..because clearly they’re rolling in cash.

No photo description available.

Now we’re told the new plans being drawn up aren’t designing in safe egress to higher ground either (we’ve been told it will be added, retrospectively, after the plans have been drawn up by our own staff). Oh, and the council will have to self insure the buildings because insurance companies won’t insure new builds on a flood plain (as they’re not covered by the governments flood re scheme ), and they want to build 100% social housing, which we have lots of in Chester Green already…….

Did we also mention that two large development companies, in the past, couldn’t overcome these problems either with major objections from the environment agency, among others regarding the points made above (similar to the objections made recently about the planned conversion of the Waterside Inn up the river into flats by both the environment agency and the councils own planning dept.)……now you know why the council got the site below the going price for residential land…..because it isn’t land suitable for residential use….

So, they turned down a well formulated and presented plan, which keeps the locally listed building in a conservation area for something closer to its intended use (and doesn’t demolish it, like the residential plans will need to), adds to the local economy, trains people in a skilled profession and would sit very well between the Silk Mill museum and the world heritage site up the river, for something that is poorly thought out and could quite easily never come to fruition……. slow clap for Derby Council’s ‘regeneration’ department…….

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