What a year it has been for everyone. 2020 has come and gone without any consideration for people’s plans. This is also true for us here at Station South and the inevitable delays that it’s had on the project.
On the flip side, the pandemic has shown the resilience of people and places and the importance of human connections and the great outdoors. It’s also seen a massive rise in folks dusting off their old bikes or picking up one to ‘give it a go’ again for safe travel reasons, for fitness and for the sheer joy of it. We’re obviously very happy about this upshot of an otherwise gnarly year.
Covid has undeniably hit people and places really hard and whilst we have been shielded from the dire effect it's had on venues up and down the country (we really feel for the hospitality and cultural hubs, we miss them too!) It hasn’t been without its challenges to keep the Station South project wheels turning, the building work going forward and getting the funding required to get us open.
Rest assured, we have not been resting on our laurels. We’ve been working super hard to secure funds to make sure we can deliver on the promise of everything Station South when we finally do throw the doors open in 2021.
So, at the end of a tough year, we’re both relieved and excited to share positive news with you about the project, the timeline and what we’ve achieved with your seed funding and support.
First up, we’ll drop the exciting news that the Architectural Heritage Fund (AHF) have granted Station South CIC £100,000 to support the final phase of building works. Thanks to the continued support of the Architectural Heritage Fund and their team identifying a potential opportunity, we submitted a further application to the ‘Transforming Places Through Heritage’ grant this Autumn.
Just last week, we received notification of a successful outcome. Yipee! We have been awarded £100,000.
The final bit of the jigsaw (at the moment at least) is our Key Fund social investment loan application currently underway. Key Fund have been incredibly supportive over the past year and we will get a decision in January. We can then begin the next phase of building works and our fit out ready to open in 2021.
These grants and loans are for stuff like heating, floors, insulation and toilets, doors, windows, kitchen and shop fit out. With all this in place we can open to serve you teas, coffee, drinks and smashing food and host a heap of fun in the not too distant future! Here’s to 2021.
Matthew Mckeague CEO of the AHF said:
“The Architectural Heritage Fund is delighted to support Station South in repurposing this handsome, decommissioned train station. It is a project that we have supported since the early stages, and is one that shows how a conservation led approach to a historic but neglected building can have a transformative impact. This important project will help revitalise Levenshulme’s high street, benefiting the local community, whilst promoting practical solutions to the climate crisis through cycling initiatives and community activities.”
You can read more about the fund, our award and other great projects on their shiny website.
We also want to use this update to stress how much we appreciate your patience and continued support with us as we navigate the labour of love that is Station South, 3 years on from the initial idea and 2 years on from your commitment to the project with the crowdfunder.
Your generous backing of that vision and faith in the three strangers who came together to help make the Station South magic happen (we’re friends now of course!) has kept us going and ensured the project has had a solid base with funders and project partners to keep seeing it through to delivery.
We really do owe you one heck of a party (along with those well deserved and long awaited cream teas you future proofed with us) when we get this big beautiful bikey beast over the line! We are getting there...promise.
We realise it’s been an age since we asked for your financial support on this project and we’re really aware as neighbours, friends and fellow cycle cafe enthusiasts that we have commitments to you to redeem those rewards and put on those special events as well as get us opened...
We’re feeling the pressure a little as time rolls on and so want to put your mind at ease. Your crowdfunding investment is safe, in the bank waiting for the necessary match funding to start Phase 3 - Fit Out.
Delivering your crowdfunder rewards is firmly at the top of our priority list. We have ring fenced budget to deliver each and every one! So we hope that makes you feel confident in us still.
We thought we’d also give you a bit of an insight into what 2019/2020 has looked like for us. What we’ve been working on to get Station South over the line. We want to be open and honest with our crowd and explain a little about the mega funding and planning requirements to realise this project.
We think that this will help you understand why we’re aiming so high,why it's taking a bit longer and why we are confident it will pay off.
Here’s some mini updates on our major funders and our funding strategy:
You may have read earlier this year that we were successful in our bid to Railway Heritage Trust with support to the princely sum of £100,000. This was a real win for the team at an intense, paperwork filled time of lockdown. This grant has been awarded to Station South CIC for works on the building only.
Railway Heritage Trust can also be thanked for their contribution to our landlords investment in the project, with match funding to the tune of £200,000 for remedial and repair works in phase 1 and 2 of the restoration, now near completion. They love the project and have been supportive throughout and we’re very thankful. We can’t wait for our plaque on the station either.
Our landlords, Railway Paths Limited entered into this project with us, in collaboration after we made a strong business and social value case for investment on the strength of our business plan and our outline project plan. We were able to agree to good terms for our lease of 25 years as well as a commitment to repair the shell of the building and make it watertight and leasable to us. RPL have now invested £200,000 to ensure the building is shored up and around in another 100 years and Station South CIC have committed to a collaboration works programme of essential and optional repair works which will benefit the building in lieu of rent up to the value of £100,000 going forward. Additionally we have in the landlord a commitment that the building use will always be intrinsically linked to the Fallowfield Loop purpose as a greenway and cycle path. We’re pretty proud of that.
Since Autumn 2019 we have been knee deep in a large scale funding bid to ‘Places To Ride’ with Sport England and British Cycling and a parallel funding application for Community Asset Fund also with Sport England.
This level of investment would mean we would be able to install a full landscaping programme for Station Green from the outset with quality community facilities, including our learn to ride children’s maze, the cycle skills track and the wooden rotunda roundhouse building.
The fund is a two stage application process and we passed the first stage with flying colours. Everyone involved was keen to see the project supported and our small team spent a great deal of energy and time to develop the stage 2 application. Sadly, after a lengthy process of development, assessment and deliberation, the application was unsuccessful. We were really gutted and a bit bewildered.
Nevertheless, we maintained the belief in the strength of our application and vision to Sport England; the merit in our business plan, its innovation and ‘everyday people’ approach to cycling and the promise of the health and social benefits it would genuinely bring to the community at large. Something we really believe in. So we responded with an extensive appeal which was subsequently upheld and we were given another chance to demonstrate the impact this investment will have.
We are now in a review process with Sport England and we have no indication of which way the decision is likely to go. We exist on a healthy dose of optimism (mixed with a tasty cocktail of pragmatism and a dash of cynicism of course!) and we do know that we’ve worked our socks off and have learnt so much on the way.
If Sport England can see the same ‘value for money’ in our project, its viability and the community wide benefits of what we are proposing, we’ll be able to bring this seriously big vision to life earlier than we planned and we think they’ll be impressed at the impact we can really have here.
And if the decision doesn’t go our way...we’ll have a plan B. A phased approach to transform Station Green with the community. Bringing to life the ideas that emerged from community design workshops project by project. We know that Levenshulme and the Station South crowdfunding crew will get behind that timeline too and help the place evolve into the imagined vision, whatever happens!
To tale off 2020’s funding saga, we can close the year off on a super high and thank the funders who have trusted the vision and work involved behind the dream to date. To everyone that has supported us so far, thank you. It will be worth the wait!
This April, some months after the third and final planning application went in for the site and building, we finally received the news from Manchester City Council (delays due to Covid of course) that our plans had been approved, along with a tidy 21 pages of conditions, easy peasy.
The full specification of what those plans are can be found here but the nicest bit to read is our Architects Design & Access summary.
The impact of Covid was felt the most with phase 2 repair and restoration works, managed by the landlord, Railway Paths Limited. Some difficulties with sourcing materials, specialist contractors and continuing work onsite by the conservation team meant there was a significant pause which has caused some of the programme delays.
Thankfully this picked up again in late Summer and we are pleased to say, outstanding remedial and conservation work is due to be completed by the end of the year. Finishing off with the sewage connections, a glamorous close to 2020. Hurrah!
So all that’s left to say is have a nice break wherever you are, stay safe and if you’ve got on your bike over the Summer and kept it up now that Winter is here, big props to you!
Before we crack on with Phase 3 we think it’ll be a nice point to show supporters around the building to have a sneaky peek before we start making it messy again. More details to follow in the New Year.
Pauline, Mark and Abigail