Friends of the Guildhall (FROGS)
Mission statement: “To promote, enhance and sustain the Plympton Guildhall”
What is FROGS?
The Friends of Plympton St Maurice Guildhall is a community interest company and a registered charity. Our articles of association have been filed at Companies House are available for inspection.
We are closely associated with, but separate from, the Civic Association.
Vice Admiral Sir Richard Ibbotson KBE, CB, DSC DL has kindly agreed to act as our Patron. Sir Richard is a local resident and is able to provide his knowledge and experience gleaned from his career in public service.
Why was it necessary to set up FROGS? Couldn’t the Civic Association have done the same thing?
Plymouth City Council has placed the Guildhall on its Community Asset Transfer List. The city council is proactively looking to work with interested community groups in order to secure the future of the Guildhall.
FROGS is a legal entity. It is also a charity and has to abide by the law governing charities.
The Civic Association is governed by its own constitution which means it can operate more flexibly than a charity.
What do we hope to achieve?
Our aim is to bring the Guildhall under new management and return it to the heart of the community as a viable commercial concern whilst retaining the essence of its character.
How will we do this?
We need to attract funding. Rough estimates provided by PCC for the maintenance and refurbishment costs have indicated funds in the region of £250,000 would be required. In order to attract potential funders FROGS need to be able to demonstrate that we are a viable organisation with a credible and sustainable scheme worthy of investment.
What will external funders, such as the Heritage Lottery Fund want to see from FROGS?
We have already taken advice from professional organisations, including the Architectural Heritage Fund (AHF), and as a result we have identified the following basic requirements:
1. The establishment a community interest company (CIC)
2. The Registration of the CIC as a charity
3. The completion of a project viability report (PVR)*
4. A need to demonstrate that FROGS have a clear and unambiguous title to the Guildhall
We have already satisfied the requirements 1 and 2.
What is happening with the garage?
The City Council sold the garage in the 1970s and until recently it remained in private hands. In December 2015 FROGS bought the garage back so that any development can now include the garage area.
What about the original trust that was set up in the 19th Century? Won’t FROGS have to resolve any legal duties- responsibilities and obtain permission from the Form of Trustees?
There is a long and complicated history relating to the ownership of the Guildhall. This is not something unique to Plympton St Maurice. Many buildings which had been left for the benefit of the public are often subject to all kinds of conflicting rights and responsibilities. Some of these may have been extinguished over time; others may still exist but have not been exercised for decades but remain potential legal hazards. To untangle this legal web would take years and may never actually be resolved. We have set up a structure that allows us to proceed despite this tangled web.
*PVR Is the first and most basic report covering a Building Condition Survey,a maintenance report and a Business Plan.
Is there a solution without recourse to expensive legal involvement?
Yes. Plymouth City Council has agreed in principle to grant a lease of the Guildhall for 25 years to FROGS. That should provide sufficient assurance to any potential funders. Plymouth City Council would charge a peppercorn rent.
What has all this cost so far and who has paid for it?
The garage cost £15,000 to purchase. FROGS were able to pay some of this money but the balance of over £12,000 has been loaned by Plympton St Maurice Civic Association and individual members of the community. In the short to medium term we intend to repay these loans through fundraising events and external funders.
FROGS were also grateful for all the support and assistance they have received from Howard & Over solicitors who provided their services for the purchase of the garage free of charge. This loan has been registered with the Land Registry and secured on the garage by way of a legal charge.
What type of renovation/maintenance is planned?
Whilst potential funders will want to see that we have an outline business plan, what actually uses the Guildhall is put to is not within the FROGS remit.
The Guildhall is a community asset and it is for the local community to decide what uses it is put to.
We would suggest that whatever the outcome is the following may have to be undertaken:
Installation of Showers/changing Rooms
Upgrading of front rooms .
Central heating/plumbing upgrade
What are the next steps?
An application to AHF for a Project Viability Grant of £3000 to obtain the intial PVR.
Obtain a letter of intent from PCC confirming that they intend to support our application.
If the PVR process is successful, apply for a Project Development grant from AHF of £25,000 to cover the cost of developing and co-ordinating the project and taking it forward to the start of work on site.
Both the PVG and the PDG require match funding.