Saturday, December 2, 2023

Opinion: “AVBC Will Take The Lead, Will Own The Building And Will Make Final Decisions”

Following the feasibility study and the decisions made by Amber Valley Borough Council (AVBC) in March, Amber Valley Borough Council (AVBC) is going forward with procuring a replacement tearoom for Belper River Gardens at a maximum cost of £290,000 which includes £100,000 contribution from Belper Town Council.

There was no discussion about this with Belper Community Enterprise (BCE) directors until a meeting, requested by BCE, was held with officers on the 17 July.  It is clear that AVBC will take the lead, will own the building and will make final decisions.

We are meeting them again next week on 25th of July so we shall report to them then whatever feedback we have had from our supporters and the public and this will also be the basis of any decisions that BCE makes on the way forward.

We were told at the meeting on 17th July that it is intended that the proposed building will have very similar facilities and design features to be design that BCE developed in terms of kitchen, servery, toilets and accessibility. It may also keep the “T-shape” plan and the character of the old building in terms of the distinctive roof shape and scale. The likely seating capacity will be 30 people inside and a further 30 under a veranda. Historic England have proposed to AVBC that the new design should be, “Attractive and delightful rather than utilitarian.

Expressions of interest have been received from a number of firms prepared to tender to provide the building on a design and build basis. AVBC are preparing the tender documents.

The council’s programme would mean that construction might start in Spring 2019. It involves a panel of stakeholders including Belper Town Council and the Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Site selecting a shortlist of possible designs. This selection would then go out to public consultation before a final choice is made later this year. Planning permission would be sought for this design which would include demolition of the old tearooms that are now collapsing. A bat survey is currently being undertaken at that building.

BCE have been asked by AVBC to contribute the cash raised from its “Buy-a-brick” and other fund raising to AVBC to help fund the new building.  We would only consider doing this subject to the following conditions:

  1. The cash will not be handed over until the tearooms are in operation.
  2. The money will be spent on a specific feature of the building that adds value to it and which will be selected by BCE.
  3. A permanent visible display of the bricks will be incorporated inside the building showing the names as specified by donors.
  4. All purchasers of bricks will be invited to the opening event.
  5. The operator will be required to make the building available out of hours for hire by community and other uses for reasonable charges and to make wall space available for art and temporary exhibitions.
  6. BCE will be represented on the selection panel’s to assist in securing the operator and to act in an advisory role based on its two years’ experience of work on the project.

The questions that we would appreciate your answers to are as follows:

  1. Do you think that AVBC’s current proposals will deliver a suitable replacement tearooms for Belper River Gardens? (Yes/No/Don’t know)
  2. Do you think Belper Community Enterprise should work with the Council with the objective of getting the best possible solution reflecting local people’s requirements? (Yes/No/Don’t know)
  3. If you made a contribution to “Buy-a-brick” would you be consent for it to be made available to AVBC subject to the conditions specified above? (Yes/No/Decide later/not applicable)

Please respond to by 24th of July. If you did make a contribution to “Buy-a-brick” please include the name on one of the bricks and the date from the certificate issued as a means of verification.

You may simply state your answers against each of the letters A,B,C of the questions listed above. Other comments and views would also be welcome.

Any “Buy-a-brick” money that donors do not agree to be passed to AVBC and money raised to date for our project will be held in reserve by BCE and will not be spent for any other purpose without further consultation.

Our offer to return “Buy-a-brick” donations will remain in place in view of the changed circumstances.

Our aim has always been to replace the Swiss Tearooms with a new building that Belper can be proud of as soon as possible and this remains a possibility.

Directors Of Belper Community Enterprise 

Claire Meese


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