Merchistoun Hall, our Jewel in the Crown for the community is a grade 2* Listed manor home which is the home to several clubs, organisations and charities. The centre, run by Brendan Charles, is home to perhaps 20 organisations from pre-school to Youth Arts, Amateur dramatics to elderly support. It is also the home for ‘Stepping Stones’ a charity that helps the unemployed get back to work with mentoring and advice. In recent years I have been very pleased to support the grounds with an application for Developers Contributions for a new tarmac car park, and 7 Victorian light columns. These columns were bought from eBay after being decommissioned from a northern County Council for a fraction of their new cost. In these hungry times you need to look for every opportunity.
So, after the external works were improved the focus was to look for a community project which would compliment all of the existing centre users, bring in new groups, and be a first class community project. Clearly, we had to build a Bandstand. This will be a outdoor location for the pre-school, great venue for outdoor Theatre, venue for residents to bring picnics and blankets for the Last Night of the Proms, a focal point for concerts with our local bands and support all of the other parts of the hall including weddings and so on. We also decided it was going to be large enough to cope with multiple events. In fact it will be 8m wide.
We have carefully designed the bandstand with one key element in mind; we wanted to partner with Highbury College who teach our children construction skills from groundworks to brick laying, render to carpentry, roofing to plumbing and electrics. We are going to make this a project for the students at Highbury College to build in full as a permanent structure during their assessed coursework. Inevitably most construction apprentice training at college is with materials that are second hand, and then knocked down for re-use. This project, as well as giving the students an opportunity to experience a real life site of their own, will let them understand how to work with their preceding and following classmates, and to leave a permanent structure for the community to enjoy.
‘This is a brilliant opportunity for our Construction students to work on a very high profile local community project, our students like nothing more than working on real sites and projects that give them a taste of what working life will be like. Highbury College is very grateful to the Horndean community for giving us this great opportunity, which we trust will be a great addition to the residents of this area.’ Dee John Executive Director. Highbury College, Portsmouth.
The structure has been designed by HGP Architects and Reuby & Stagg Structural Engineers, both of whom have been kind enough to give their time at no cost. We worked with the designers to ensure the new structure was robust, vandal proof, wold fit in well with the existing building and could be entirely built by the college students. The roof tiles are a recycled tyre which has the appearance of a slate tile. No problems with football damage there. The structure is anti climb by design, and fire proof (not that we have those problems here…). The design closely mimics the existing hall with a white rendered superstructure and a dark blue brick at the base.
My fellow District Councillors have dug deep into their devolved grants, and along with a successful Developers Contribution grant we have a fund of £14,500 for materials, but at this point the generosity of a number of organisations means that we will have much of this left over, and I would like to gratefully acknowledge them below:
HGP Architects – Full architectural design and preparation of building regs and planning permission documents.
Reuby & Stagg Structural Engineers – Full structural design and calcs for building regs.
Bourne Steel – Fabrication and delivery of the steel frame which supports the roof structure.
Bouygues UK – Bricks, Blocks and a grant to Highbury College to support their costs and gift tools for the students.
Whelan and Grant – Concrete and steel reinforcement for the structure.
GS Scaffolding – Scaffolding for the project.
NA Curtain Walling – Labour required to erect the steel frame, the only part the students will not do themselves.
Linden Homes – Full support for the project and a whopping contribution to be negotiated.
BC Builders Ltd – small local firm who are very keen to help and we will work with them to find a good item.
East Hampshire District Council – £14,500 for materials and costs.
Work will start in September this year, and run through to January 2015. I look forward to telling you about the progress, and passing on an invitation from Merchistoun Hall for the first event.
We are looking for sponsors who can help with the roof tiles, large windows (with 10mm toughened glass), Egg Crate Drainage, Block Paving etc. Please let me know on firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to support the project.