Monday, 5 May 2014

Reportage: Sowerby Bridge project will be a major boost

Cabinet members at Calderdale Council agreed to the transfer of the running of Sowerby Bridge library building, former swimming pool, offices and fire station to the community partnership company Sowerby Bridge Fire and Water Limited.

The company behind Sowerby Bridge’s Winter Light festival has drawn up plans to transform the vacant spaces into a community hub incorporating spaces for art, music and theatre studios.

Phil Hawdon of Sowerby Bridge Fire and Water said: “It’s absolutely excellent news - it’s something we’ve been working with the council on for so long and it’s great that it’s come through.

“Sowerby Bridge is a town which doesn’t have a great deal of facilities - there’s very little available to people.

“We’re really trying to make sure it will be available to as many people as possible.”

Fire and Water has already gained support from local residents and businesses and councillors applauded the company’s professionalism and ambition.

Deputy council leader Barry Collins (Lab, Illingworth & Mixenden) said: “There’s an extraordinary potential with this - it’s going to make such a difference to the centre of Sowerby Bridge. Fire and Water has built a huge bank of support from the local community - there are hundreds of people in Sowerby Bridge now who regard themselves as supporters of Fire and Water and they’ve made people see the exciting possibilities of that complex of buildings.”

The asset transfer will hand the management of the buildings over to Fire and Water under a 125 year lease with safeguards in place should problems arise.

The services in the library will continue to be run by Calderdale Council, but the rest of the building will be run by Fire and Water. The project follows the success of a similar asset transfer deal at Hebden Bridge Town Hall.

Coun Collins said: “Sowerby Bridge is an old industrial town which is starting to reinvent itself in a really fascinating way. There’s a real need to develop community facilities and that’s exactly what this scheme will do - it’s very exciting. There’s going to be investment, jobs and these old buildings will be put back into use - it’s a win win situation.”

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