MINEHEAD DEVELOPMENT TRUST: OLD HOSPITAL PROJECT
In February 2011, the opening of a new hospital on the outskirts of Minehead left the
Old Hospital redundant. Situated at the heart of the town, this site and its heritage
buildings offer a unique focal point for much-needed economic and social
regeneration. A feasibility study, undertaken for the Minehead Development Trust
(MDT), identified the site’s potential:
Its central location creates a link between the town’s key features, drawing
visitors up the Avenue from the seafront and heritage railway to the Regal
Theatre and into the town centre with its retail and food outlets, through to
Blenheim Gardens and back towards the Quay.
The Old Hospital’s three Grade II listed buildings offer an opportunity to
celebrate Minehead’s heritage, with some space given to the museum that the
town currently lacks.
Community consultation has demonstrated strong support for saving the Old
Hospital as a community asset and for including the library, Visitor
Information Centre, and a museum within the complex.
Restoration of the Assembly Room would fulfil the community’s need for a
large public space to be used flexibly for social and cultural events including
exhibitions, performances, and meetings.
The addition of small shops, a café and a restaurant will create an indoor
attraction for visitors, a need identified by the town’s tourist industry.
There is scope to replace non-listed buildings with some housing to ensure
that the project is financially sustainable.
Developing the site as a community asset will create jobs, not just in the Old
Hospital complex itself but also by regenerating the town and its businesses.
Funding for the Old Hospital project
To realise the site’s potential, MDT is currently applying for Heritage Lottery funding
to acquire and develop the Old Hospital. Feedback on the Trust’s Pre-Application
indicates that, in addition to conservation management plans and evidence of
potential community usage, to be successful a bid must be supported by a detailed
programme of heritage education and training. Development of the programme
takes place throughout the two-stage bidding process and entails extensive
community involvement. This encourages cohesion by ensuring that decisions on the
project and its outcome are made by the community, not imposed from outside.
INFORMATION ABOUT MINEHEAD DEVELOPMENT TRUST
Minehead Development Trust: In July 2010, the Minehead Old Hospital
Development Group (MOHDG) became the Minehead Development Trust, a Company
Limited by Guarantee, and is now also registered as a charity. Currently, MDT
members are drawn from Minehead Chamber of Trade; the Regal/ARTlife; Minehead
Conservation Society; Engage West Somerset; Minehead Hoteliers Association;
Transition Minehead and Alcombe; Minehead EYE; Christians Together in Minehead;
Minehead Town Council; West Somerset Council; Somerset County Council; plus a
local accountant and an information technology expert. The Trust is supported by Sir
Julian Luttrell, whose family have a long and distinguished association with the Old
Vision: In February 2011, the closure of Minehead’s Old Hospital presented the
community with a once-in-a-generation opportunity to create a lasting legacy.
Situated at the centre of the town, this site and its heritage buildings have the
potential to be a catalyst for the social and economic revitalisation needed to combat
the effects of recession. MDT aims to create a vibrant hub of economic, cultural and
community activity, utilising the site’s unique location and architectural features to
provide a range of exciting opportunities for the people of the town, the surrounding
area and the visitors it attracts.
Commitment from NHS Somerset: As the owner of the Old Hospital site, NHS
Somerset has expressed support for proposals to retain its use for the benefit of the
local community. On this basis, NHS Somerset confirmed that it would not actively
seek to market the property for a period, allowing MDT time to develop proposals for
purchase and development of the site. To date the PCT has not actively marketed the
Old Hospital heritage buildings: For over 100 years, Minehead’s old hospital has
formed a much-loved heart of the town: originally as the Town Hall and Assembly
Rooms, later as the Luttrell Memorial Hospital which became the West Somerset
Hospital. Situated in the Wellington Square Conservation Area, the main Grade II
listed building was designed by one of Minehead’s foremost Victorian architects:
James Piers St Aubyn. The Old Police Station (1898) and the nurses’ accommodation
(1923) are also listed. Immediately adjacent to the site, Blenheim Gardens are
recognised as a European Heritage Garden.
FUNDERS AND ACTIVITY TO DATE
Community funding campaign: Pledges of funding sought through a public launch
of the Old Hospital project in Minehead Free Press (24 February 2012) and West
Somerset County Gazette (1 March 2012). Community shares offer in preparation.
Coastal Communities Fund: The Minehead Visioning Group has selected the Old
Hospital project to submit a bid for this funding.
Heritage Lottery Fund bid: Basic draft prepared by December 2011. Feedback on
Pre-Application suggests additional work is required before submitting Stage 1 bid.
Communitybuilders: New funding became available towards the end of 2011. A bid
was drafted but withdrawn when additional information on loan terms indicated that
the project would not be viable.
Charity registration: 26 October 2011, No. 1144443
Communitybuilders Feasibility Study Grant: Funding was awarded in August
2010 to generate a Business Plan for the Old Hospital, including dilapidations
surveys, structural surveys; design and conservation studies; costings; and valuation
costs. In addition, MDT was provided with the support of a Business Adviser.
Community consultation, conducted in December 2010, confirmed strong support for
saving the Old Hospital as a community asset and for including the library, Visitor
Information Centre, and a museum within the complex. Delayed awarding of the
Feasibility funding denied MDT the opportunity to bid for a Communitybuilders Main
Investment when the deadline for applications was unexpectedly brought forward.
Options Appraisal: In January 2009, MOHDG raised funding and commissioned
EMB Associates to explore the use of the site and existing buildings to fulfil
community and economic demands. In June 2009, this appraisal resulted in project
proposals and an outline business plan for the Old Hospital site as a cultural and
economic hub, linking The Avenue’s businesses with Blenheim Gardens and the Regal
Theatre. This confirmed the site’s potential as a multi-use centre, including a
café/restaurant; performance and gallery space; retail outlets; offices; and meeting
rooms. The subsequent economic down-turn limited the opportunity for immediate
realisation of these ambitious proposals and further work is being undertaken.
Bid for CABE Sea Change funding: EMB’s first phase concept, with the Old
Hospital as a cultural link, formed the basis of a bid for funds to update the Regal
Theatre’s frontage and accessibility plus enhancing the Blenheim Gardens bandstand.
Although highly commended, the bid was unsuccessful. However, the Minehead
Visioning Group has identified a scaled-down version of the Sea Change proposals as
a priority for part of the £200k Seaside Strategy Funding
“Setting the Community Agenda” Workshop: In May 2009, this workshop
confirmed that the community prioritised the conservation and redevelopment of the
Old Hospital site as a focus for economic and social regeneration in Minehead. This
prioritisation has been supported by the Minehead Visioning Group and Minehead
Marketing and Development Brief: Towards the end of 2009, MOHDG advertised
for partners to help realise a comprehensive redevelopment plan for the Old Hospital
site. The detailed Marketing and Development Brief sought proposals to enhance the
vitality of the town centre through high-quality, imaginative design and respect for
the town’s heritage. A consortium of local businesses responded with proposals.
Although not entirely suitable, these proposals may be the subject of future
discussions with the consortium
Grassroots Community Grant: From October 2009, a Grassroots grant funded the
advice and legal costs relating to MDT’s constitution and company registration
Community Facilitation: During 2008/09 MOHDG commissioned and worked with a
Community Facilitator who undertook a strategic review of relevant policies;
submitted funding bids; provided a skills audit as a basis for capacity-building; and
secured support from the Development Trusts Association.