Staying alive: a community-led bid for the Co-op Funeralcare building
Over 60 people turned out on a wet evening at Oswald Road primary school on Thursday (26th September) to hear about exciting plans to save the former Gaumont cinema and develop the surrounding site:
Arts and cultural attraction
Pop-up food hall and craft space
Much-needed space for NHS
Chris Peacock and Simon Hooton explained the plans and how the Chorlton Community Land Trust will lead a fundraising effort with a target of £250,000. The Co-op has given the Community Land Trust a window to put together a bid.
Councillor Eve Holt set the campaign in context and passed on a message of support from Jeff Smith MP.
Hazel and Justine Gibb told the meeting how the Gibb family, including surviving Bee Gee, Barry Gibb, are all supporting the campaign.
Co-op head of property: "It has not been sold"
Simon Goodier, head of property services at the Co-op was emphatic when he told Chorlton residents in July that the Funeralcare site has not been sold and that no contract has been entered into.
Simon was speaking to a lively meeting at Oswald Road School on 4 July organised by Chorlton Coop Cluster. When challenged as to why Southway Housing Trust had been told that it had 'come second' with its bid for the site, Simon said that the identity of who had come first was 'commercially confidential'. Simon was joined by Russell Gill, head of member and community engagement at the Co-op. Russell welcomed the level of community interest and urged residents to work with the Co-op on its new Endangered Spaces campaign and look at other sites in Chorlton that could be worth saving.
At the conclusion of the meeting, Simon agreed to try and get agreement from the Co-op senior management and board to pause the sale for 6 months at least to give time for the community to create a plan for the site and raise finance.
The evening meeting was attended by around 40 people. Councillor Eve Holt (pictured above) started the evening by taking everyone outside to see the back of the site. Eve said Chorlton needed more shared spaces, and emphasised the strength that would come if the community spoke with one voice. Chris Peacock and Simon Hooton from the Chorlton Community Land Trust showed some of the ideas they had explored on how the site could be transformed to make it a hub for activity at the heart of Chorlton. They spoke about the potential to raise funds for a site purchase given enough time.
The meeting was called by Chorlton Coop Cluster after it became clear that the iconic Co-op funeral home - former Savoy and then Gaumont cinema - was up for sale. Property agents Savills are touting it as a 'prime development opportunity' and now say the site is 'under offer'.
We put a question to the 2019 Co-op AGM (see below). Steve Murrells, Chief Executive of the Co-op said that the Co-op "should think long and hard" about what to do with the site.
Click on the video below to see our question on this matter at the Co-op 2019 AGM and the response from Chief Executive Steve Murrells.
Chorlton Community Land Trust is now up and running - a welcome new addition to the community of cooperatives in Chorlton. It has grown out of the campaign for a community-led development of Ryebank Fields.
The trust has applied for a 'Community Right to Bid' to Manchester City Council for the Chorlton Funeralcare site. Chris Peacock from the trust will be speaking at our event on 4th July.
The window for applications for local projects to receive funding from the Co-op has now closed. Each year 1% of everything local members spend on Co-op-branded goods, plus the plastic bag levy from local stores, is shared between the projects that help the local community.
We'll let you know when we hear the 'long list' of projects. If we are given time, we'll put it up for a vote.