Saint Michaels Rooms Update

This update provides a background to the St Michael’s Rooms re-development project, the current position and the next steps.

Saint Michaels Rooms occupy an iconic place in Framlingham both in terms of geographic location at the traditional heart of the town and in relation to the social life of the community. Many of the events that have marked the contemporary history of the town have been held in the Rooms.

The building is now over 100 years old and is in need of significant re-development. A survey carried out last year indicated that rebuilding the Rooms would be the best viable option to allow its continued use.

As part of a wider exploration of community space, Framlingham Town Council began exploring options around the re-development of the Rooms with the Parochial Church Council early last year. A working group was established composed of councillors, PCC representatives and others drawn from the community. An outline plan was drawn up which envisaged the Town Council leading on the re-development. The land that the Rooms stand on would be leased to the Council by the PCC and the new building would be built using funding from District and Town Council’s Community Infrastructure Levy funds.

In June 2018, the Town Council supported the application for CIL funds from the District Council for £700K which was successful. It was anticipated that an additional £140K would be provided from local CIL funds.

Despite a significant amount of work being undertaken by the working group the project stalled earlier this year because the Town Council and PCC were unable to agree the details of a framework lease. The respective legal and financial obligations of the PCC and Town Council could not be reconciled.

At this point The District Council was updated on progress and it was anticipated that their CIL funding for the project would be withdrawn. However, instead it was suggested that the PCC could lead on the re-development and directly receive the District CIL funding. This would remove the need for a framework lease between the Town Council and the PCC, the main stumbling block to the re-development. It would also remove any ongoing financial or other obligations for the running of the new Rooms from the Town Council.

The District Council have made a requirement of their CIL funding a Memorandum of Understanding between the Town Council and PCC. This will describe the requirement for the PCC to deliver a project that will serve the whole community in the town as set down in the original CIL application. The MOU is also designed to demonstrate the Town Council’s support for the project. Subject the MOU being agreed the District Council will allocate the £700K of CIL funding to the project.

The original project anticipated a spend of £840K on the re-development. As noted above, £140K was to be provided from the Town Council’s local CIL funds. £840K is still the projected cost of the project and the proposal is that the shortfall in funding will be closed by the PCC directly contributing £70K towards the re-development and the PCC will also apply to the Town Council for £70K of match funding from the local CIL.

It is the position of the Town Council that before it supports and signs the MOU and allocates local CIL funds it should assure itself that the PCC’s plans for running the new community space are realistic and viable. The PCC are currently producing a business plan and the Town Council must be satisfied that it is viable.

Both the MOU and business plan are being drafted. It is anticipated that the completed documents will go to the Town Council’s Finance and Strategy meeting in June. If that committee is satisfied that the documents meet the Town Council and District requirements, they will go to the July Full Town Council meeting with a supporting motion for debate and decision. The debate will be preceded by a presentation by the PCC on their plans.

At the Full Town Council meeting on 16th May the following motion passed:

‘To support St Michael’s PCC to develop a Memorandum of Understanding and Business Plan to the satisfaction of the Town Council, with the aim to develop St Michael’s Rooms and receive CIL funding allocated by Suffolk Coastal District Council’.

This was designed to provide confidence for Councillors and PCC representatives working on the MOU that the Town Council supported the course of work being undertaken before the Town Council decides whether to allocate £70K of CIL funding.

If the Town Council agrees at its meeting in July to support the PCC plan to re-develop St Michael’s Rooms, the anticipated outcomes will be:

The PCC will lead on the re-development of what will be called ‘St Michaels Community Rooms’;

The building will continue to provide a community space for the town. The split of use between PCC use and wider community events will be 15% PCC events and 85% wider community events;

The building will be of a similar size and in the same location as the current St Michaels Rooms;

The building will be built to contemporary standards and provide similar facilities to the current Rooms but modernised;

There will be no ongoing financial obligations for Framlingham Town Council after the local CIL funds are allocated;

The St Michaels Community Rooms will be designed and built to deliver a community space for another 100 years.