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Saving The Working Boys Home *UPDATE*

Herefordshire Council

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#31 gdj

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Posted 13 March 2014

Thank you Aylestone Voice

 

You don't happen to know when the council decided it didn't need Blackfriars, do you? Or what role Geoff Hughes had in that decision?

 

Knowing a free school could do this, wouldn't you think they would act defensively and keep any such buildings of value in use until the school was housed somewhere else?

 

And if the building really wasn't needed then you'd have thought the staff in there would have adequate alternative places already prepared. 

 

Is the lack of protest from the council due to bigger politics and trying not to get on the wrong side of central government?  Is that also why the Hereford Times is ignoring the situation?


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#32 dippyhippy

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Posted 13 March 2014

Excellent points GDJ!
This is the problem....once you start digging, you find more and more.

I am uneasy at the prospect that any unwanted council owned building, can be hijacked and used free of charge for the foreseeable future.
Who bears the cost of refitting this?

Someone, somewhere knows something about all of this.
We may not have the full picture yet, but we will!
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#33 twowheelsgood

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Posted 13 March 2014

In 1921, John Venn's charity, the Hereford Society for Aiding the Industrious, sold 15 acres of land to the then Hereford City Council at well below market rate (£4750), on the agreement that it would be used for social housing, which was enshrined in the deeds. This became the Portfields estate, which abuts the back of this site, and council housing was built on it. That the Council subsequently allowed some of the houses to be sold on the open market was arguably a breach of the agreement.

 

I am not sure at this point how the Council come to be in ownership of what was once the 'Working Boys Home and Industrial School' (as shown on the indenture), but it is possible that there is a similar clause in the deeds. I'm not sure how we find that out.


Edited by twowheelsgood, 13 March 2014 .

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#34 dippyhippy

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Posted 13 March 2014

This is definitely worth investigating further.
The council took over the use of the building in1934, I understand.

Edited by dippyhippy, 13 March 2014 .

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#35 dippyhippy

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Posted 13 March 2014

Do you think HCS would be interested in this as an avenue to pursue?
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#36 twowheelsgood

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Posted 13 March 2014

I've copied my posting to the HCS chair and let him know about this thread (and forum).


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#37 dippyhippy

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Posted 13 March 2014

Oh Two Wheels!
Thanks so much for doing that, I really appreciate it.
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#38 dippyhippy

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Posted 13 March 2014

I am greatly encouraged by all the positive comments that have been forthcoming - I feel sure that we could get somewhat with this.
A response from any of the IOC councillors would be most welcome at this point.......
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#39 dippyhippy

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Posted 13 March 2014

......but I fear my wait will be a lengthy one!
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#40 megilleland

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Posted 14 March 2014

 

Thank you Aylestone Voice

 

You don't happen to know when the council decided it didn't need Blackfriars, do you? Or what role Geoff Hughes had in that decision?

 

Knowing a free school could do this, wouldn't you think they would act defensively and keep any such buildings of value in use until the school was housed somewhere else?

 

And if the building really wasn't needed then you'd have thought the staff in there would have adequate alternative places already prepared. 

 

Is the lack of protest from the council due to bigger politics and trying not to get on the wrong side of central government?  Is that also why the Hereford Times is ignoring the situation?

 
As Secretary of the Robert Owen Foundation Trustees I would have thought he would have to declare an interest in any negotiations with Herefordshire Council. Did he?
 

 


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#41 dippyhippy

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Posted 14 March 2014

This is brilliant Megilleland!
Between us, we will get to the bottom of this. I just wish Hereford Times were a bit more proactive on this one....can't quite understand why it's such a taboo subject.
I bet one of their reporters checks these threads regularly!
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#42 megilleland

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Posted 14 March 2014

Just to recap:
BBC H&W Radio: 27 April 2013 Last updated at 15:25
 

Hereford sites earmarked for Robert Owen Group free school

 

Former school buildings and offices in Hereford have been earmarked as possible sites for a new free school.

 
The Robert Owen Group plans to open a new vocational school for 14 to 19-year-olds in September.
 
The Department for Education asked Herefordshire Council to make buildings available from its housing stock.
 
The council said the school would be temporarily based at the former Holme Lacy Primary School, before moving to a second site at Blackfriars.
 
A spokesperson said the free school was expected to move to the Blackfriars offices early next year, once council staff have moved out and the building is refurbished.
 
They said an agreement had been reached with the department for education, subject to a funding deal being signed.
 
Free school
Councillor Graham Powell said the local authority was waiting for the Robert Owen Group's detailed proposals for the site.
 
Under legislation, the education secretary has the right to determine how land that has been used for educational purposes in the past should be used in future.
 
The Robert Owen Group, which also provides teacher training at its base in Leominster, was granted permission to create a school in July.
 
Free school status means it will be run outside of local authority control and will manage its own curriculum and budget, as well as given greater flexibility over teaching hours, term dates and other aspects.
 
Its president Chris Morgan said the school was "fantastic news for Herefordshire" and would help to regenerate the Marches area.
 

 

and Ledbury Reporter: 10:03am Saturday 11th January 2014 in News
 

Herefordshire's first vocational free school to be permanently based in Hereford

 
The Robert Owen School is set to move into the former Hereford High School for Boys, in Blackfriars Street, Hereford. 
 
THE county's newest school is to be permanently based in Hereford.
 
The Robert Owen Vocational School, which has been temporarily sited at the former Holme Lacy Primary School since last September, will now move to old Hereford High School for Boys site in Blackfriars Street.
 
It was the first 14 to 19 school to open in the county under the Government's free school programme, offering a broad vocational curriculum alongside core GCSE qualifications and work experience before students then move on to a chosen specialism.
 
Construction company Mace has been appointed to oversee the building work, with plans to open the school in September.
 
"It is brilliant news to have a central site in the city," said Chris Morgan, secretary of the Robert Owen Academy Trust.
 
"The world is changing and youngsters are planning other routes to get into employment," which modern apprenticeships offer.
 
"The school also serves surrounding counties, but Hereford will the hub.
 
"I think that it will be a significant part of the city's regeneration because it will a high-quality vocational establishment built in the middle of the city.
 
"It's a win-win situation for Hereford and I think a legacy will be left."
 
Chris said that around 220 businesses and voluntary organisations are currently involved in the project and there are plans to accommodate 500 students by 2018.
 
He added that the old Edwardian part of the site will be retained and refurbished internally, but the old huts will be knocked down.
 
"It is a community-owned facility and we want to retain the site for educational use and support it for the next 50 to 100 years," said Chris.
 
"We are very keen that the site is developed for community use and not just for the school."
 
For more information about the school and how to apply for a place for a child who is entering year 10, call 01568 615510 or visit robertowenschool.co.uk

 

Save the Blackfriars buildings for a private concern, but knock down the Working Boys Home. A slap in the face for council tax payers. Double standards I think.


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#43 Grid Knocker

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Posted 14 March 2014

In Praise of John Venn

Some years ago, the respected MP Frank Field came to Hereford to give a public lecture on the life and philanthropic works of the Rev John Venn. It so inspired me that I read Jean O'Donnell's excellent biography, which you'll find in Hereford Library's reference section.

As well as founding the Society for Aiding the Industrious (it was they who sold the Bath Street land for the Boys Home to be built), Venn was behind the construction of the steam-powered mill on Bath Street (still standing), the Washing Baths on Kyrle Street (still standing) and Bath Villas (still standing). He also poineered the construction of what were, in effect, affordable workers' cottages, with gardens that enabled their residents to be self-sufficient in vegetables.

To even contemplate erasing the Boys Home from this hugely impressive architectural catalogue is not only plain daft, but would be an insult to the memory of one of this city's most outstanding citizens.
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#44 Grid Knocker

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Posted 14 March 2014

I think it is immensely encouraging that Dippy's excellent thread has attracted such massive support in its first 24 hours.

It is also deeply suspicious that the 'villains' in this murky tale - Cllrs Bramer, Johnson and Podger (or their numerous unpaid acolytes) have chosen to remain silent!
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#45 twowheelsgood

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Posted 14 March 2014

The Council don't give a stuff about John Venn's heritage. He is buried in the Commercial St graveyard, with his sister and aunt, and the Society were stalled for about 6 years when they were asking the Council for something to be done about the condition of the graveyard. In 2006 they were told that a wonderful new company called ESG would manage its restoration. When it became obvious that nothing was going to happen, they undertook to restore the grave itself in 2010 - when asked to contribute towards the modest cost, the council refused to offer a penny (in fact they demanded a fee for a license, which was ignored). The City Council contributed I believe £1000.


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#46 dippyhippy

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Posted 14 March 2014

I think I will use the personal messenger, and send a direct question to Cllr Hubbard, making him aware of this discussion and asking him to comment.

He's probably completely unaware of this thread in all honesty, and unless alerted to its presence, will not be able to contribute. I would really like to hear his thoughts on this matter.

Grid Knocker, many thanks for the additional information....I really hope that this thread interests enough folk to make a difference!


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#47 dippyhippy

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Posted 14 March 2014

Polite message sent!!

Once again....we wait!!


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#48 dippyhippy

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Posted 14 March 2014

Well....progress!

I see Mark has read this thread!

Thankyou for taking the time, I realise you are a very busy person. Hopefully now that you have caught up on this discussion, you will maybe contribute your thoughts...???

I would really appreciate it, many thanks in anticipation of a response...!!


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#49 Aylestone Voice

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Posted 14 March 2014

To be fair to Mark (before we see what he has to add) - even though he is the ward councillor the ultimate power lies with the cabinet/cabinet member. Sadly they can rarely see the wood for the trees.
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#50 dippyhippy

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Posted 14 March 2014

Afternoon Aylestone Voice!

Oh absolutely - I am not trying to ambush him into responding, I am genuinely interested to hear his view as ward councillor. I usually find the comments he posts to be full and frank replies, so I am hoping he will comment on this thread.

I would just like to hear his take on the situation that we seem to find ourselves in.


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#51 Mark Hubbard

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Posted 14 March 2014

Many thanks to dippyhippy for letting me know about this thread - I don't always have time to surf and keep abreast of developing discussions on the various forums around the county. I have not been silent on the subject, but I have learnt from bitter experience that when you speak out, especially if you are not entirely supportive of something, things can get polarised very quickly.  This then leads to a determination to see things through on behalf of the decision makers and a proper discussion never surfaces, so much of what I have been trying to do has been behind the scenes.

 

Unfortunately, I am not getting very far with this approach either, so for everyone to see, here are excerpts from an email I sent to the Leader of the Council - discussions are on going and I am yet to get any real answers.

 

As ward member for Central Ward, I am extremely disappointed to discover that you met with the Chair of the Fire Authority and the Head of the Fire Service some time ago, when the land swap between the Bath St & St Owen St sites was discussed at length.  At no time since that initial discussion have you approached me as the ward member to discuss the proposals, which is in direct contradiction to all of the assurances you gave to me personally when you took over the leadership of the council. This has not been a collective or a collaborative approach whatsoever.

I cannot fault the officers overseeing the preparation of the report. I had an early briefing to say that an initial discussion had been held, but no timetable or indication as to the outcome was given. I was given a further briefing a couple of days before I became ill, although I am yet to be taken through the confidential aspects of the report.

I anticipated some sort of consultation process before the disposal of a building that is a significant part of the city's history, but sadly again I have been disappointed. 

I am now faced with a number of angry residents (one has actually turned up on my doorstep and shouted at my partner) and I am unable to reassure them that as their elected representative that I both understand why this deal has to go forward or that I have been in any way involved with the process of the decision.

I am quite willing to accept the following:

1) The existing Fire Station is beyond its sell by date.
2) The new site for the Fire Station has to be within easy striking distance of the city centre - it being the biggest risk zone in the county.
3) The Fire Service does not really have sufficient resources to "go it alone".

What I find difficult to understand:

1) Out of all the potential sites within easy distance of the city centre, the ONLY one that will do is Bath Street.
2) That to protect our city centre it is necessary to demolish part of its historic street scape.
3) That neither you nor the representatives of the fire service thought it appropriate to include the ward member in such a momentous decision.
4) That to ease the passage of this decision, early inclusion of the ward member who is relatively well respected in the ward, was not thought to be appropriate.
5) That 3 non-residents of Hereford City can make the decision, with a fourth non-resident enacting it without any local consultation WHATSOEVER.
6) That the sequential testing of other sites has not be made publicly available.
So, as you can see we have some way to go.  
 
I shall try & keep you posted.......
 

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#52 dippyhippy

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Posted 14 March 2014

Hi Mark, a huge thankyou for responding. It sounds to me as if you have been kept in the dark along with the rest of us, which is what I understood had happened. What time frame are they working to, do you know?

The lack of any sort of consultation, as you have quite rightly pointed out, is nothing short of a disgrace.

Again, I do appreciate you taking the time to comment on here!

My warmest regards.

 

Most excellent email, by the way...thanks for sharing with us!


Edited by dippyhippy, 14 March 2014 .

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#53 Mark Hubbard

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Posted 14 March 2014

I understand that the decision has been delayed for 3-4 weeks for a valuation of the site to be ascertained.  Please keep up the pressure to have this decision examined. the historic streetscape of the city is slowly being denuded. Nobody is saying that the working boys home is a marvel of architectural perfection, but it gives our city grain and history - very personal for some. New sheds do nothing to enhance the central conservation area. A better site can surely be found.


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#54 megilleland

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Posted 14 March 2014

The Council don't give a stuff about John Venn's heritage. He is buried in the Commercial St graveyard, with his sister and aunt, and the Society were stalled for about 6 years when they were asking the Council for something to be done about the condition of the graveyard. In 2006 they were told that a wonderful new company called ESG would manage its restoration. When it became obvious that nothing was going to happen, they undertook to restore the grave itself in 2010 - when asked to contribute towards the modest cost, the council refused to offer a penny (in fact they demanded a fee for a license, which was ignored). The City Council contributed I believe £1000.

 

I came past the churchyard, behind Morrisons this afternoon and witnessed the usual down and outs sitting on the grave stones drinking out of litre bottles. There is just no respect for those buried there. The whole site is covered and surrounded by litter as reported here (post 6). The mayor Cllr Phil Edwards had launched a fund through his charity to repair/restore the archway that leads in to the churchyard, but I do not know how successful he will be. The wall at the Canal Street end that was driven into has been cleared of rubble, but not repaired.

 

Rumours that Balfour Beatty are getting rid of some of its street cleaning employees beggars belief - you need an army to tidy this place up. The state of the city is just going from bad to worse. The council can't see (they are visually blind), that in order for the consumers to get to their OLM jewel, these visitors will have to sit in traffic columns on damaged roads, negotiate new sets of traffic lights and pass through neglected and blighted areas with its accompanying litter to spend its cash.


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#55 dippyhippy

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Posted 14 March 2014

Absolutely Mark!

And thanks for the prompt reply!


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#56 dippyhippy

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Posted 14 March 2014

Incidentally, what you are prepared to accept, and what you find difficult to understand.......could not agree more!

Particularly when you say that 3 non residents of Hereford should have the final say on this matter!

I am sure that other posters will have plenty to say!


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#57 megilleland

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Posted 14 March 2014

Letter in Hereford Times this week from Hereford Civic Society member John Faulkner
 

Sale is not good value

 
IN the Hereford Times February 27 issue, you report the council’s proposed ‘fire sale’ of their Bath Street offices to the fire service for them to build a new fire station.
 
This apparently involves a swap of sites between the council and fire service, demolition of the existing historic building and the existing fire station becoming a car park.
 
The council is in the process of selling as much of its surplus property as possible, but this should not be at the expense of realising full value of a site or the heritage of the city.
 
A well-designed housing scheme and retention of the historic building would result in proper realisation of the value of this valuable asset. It should be an open council decision and not left in the hands of a single cabinet member behind closed doors.
 
The article says the deal could be done by March, but it should have been reconsidered by the whole council at its meeting on March 7. On the agenda for this meeting there was already a ‘question from the public’ lodged by Mrs Protherough of Clehonger.
 
This deserved wider publicity and a considered answer from the council before any decision was made.
 
Mrs Protherough asked: “With an urgent need for sustainable housing developments in the city centre, why does this council feel that it can achieve best value for the local taxpayer by selling the Bath Street site to the Hereford and Worcester Fire Authority, rather than as a prime residential development site, which could include sensitive redevelopment of a building of historical significance in the city?”
 
Absolutely correct.
 
JOHN FAULKNER Aylestone Hill Hereford

 

 


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#58 Roger

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Posted 14 March 2014

I came past the churchyard, behind Morrisons this afternoon and witnessed the usual down and outs sitting on the grave stones drinking out of litre bottles. There is just no respect for those buried there. The whole site is covered and surrounded by litter as reported here (post 6)

 

That area is not under a Council camera. So out of sight and out of mind? Sitting on the graves of the dead may not be an offence but it is dreadful behaviour. It's been going on for years there and so is hardly a secret. If I was you I would send a Publicly visible moan to a supervisor of the local Police team for that area. Twitter is always good for that. 


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#59 dippyhippy

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Posted 14 March 2014

A brilliant letter from John Faulkener, I hope it has the desired effect and brings this matter to the attention of as many folk as possible. Thanks for posting it here Megilleland.
In no other city, would a building such as this be quietly disposed of and demolished...it would,t happen in York, or Oxford....blimey,it doesn't even happen in Hay on Wye - where the Cheese Market is set to reopen soon, after a much needed facelift. I was up last weekend, and its looking stunning.
There has not been a single comment on here that doesn't agree this building should be saved.....quite an achievement for us lot to agree about anything!!
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#60 Grid Knocker

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Posted 15 March 2014

I think John Faulkener (whose letter is quoted above) is a leading light in Hereford Civic Society who, in my view, have not exactly come out of this whole murky mess smelling of roses.  Neither do I think 'a well-designed housing scheme' would be a good idea - if it's anything like that abomination which HCS published in its latest magazine!

 

Think outside the box, peeps!  Retain all the Haddon and Godsell buildings and find a new use for them.  I doubt very much whether Councillor Bramer (Cabinet member charged with getting shot of the Boys Home) has even thought to offer them to developers who specialise in residential conversions (I believe Laings did the old General Hospital). 

 

Or how about a hotel?  Anyone who has been on a touring holiday of Spain will be familiar with that country's superb Paradores network, where unwanted historic buildings are converted into mid-range hotels.  There are more than 100 of them dotted across Spain.

 

Hereford currently has fewer than 300 tourism bed spaces (excluding b&b's) and the bluster by ex-Leader Jarvis about a new hotel being built on the Grid came to nowt.  (just like his promise to me that I'd be able to gon to the Odeon Multiplex last Christmas!).  So why couldn't the former Working Boys Home be converted into a tourist hotel?  Central location, plenty of parking spaces an only 5 minutes walk from Castle Green and the Cathedral?  With a sympathetically-designed rear extension, I'd guess it could be a 50-60 bed space operation.  Oxford has recently opened a new tourism hotel in - of all things - its old city prison.  It is called Hotel Malmaison.  I will post a link later.


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