21st October 2016 this was the day that all our efforts in negotiating the lease came to an end, with the signing of the lease.

Six years ago the Council approached the Sowerby Bridge Forum to see if they could identify a community-orientated project which would convince them to hand over the Hillis Mill Lane buildings. In June 2011 the council accepted our Statement of Interest. A feasibility grant from SIB enabled us to survey the buildings, run a pop-up shop for 3 months, pay for some administration and for the services of expert business planners and we published our Business plan to the Council in 2013. Council Cabinet approved our project in April 2014 and we started the negotiations over the details of the lease.

The lease is for 125 years for a “peppercorn” and effectively gives us control of the former baths buildings, council office buildings, fire station, the fire station car park and yard, the Library undercroft and the riverside garden. The Council retains the Library although it is committed to future discussions to do with linking the library with the Fire and Water buildings.

The legal documents comprise the Lease itself, a Joint Working Agreement, setting out targets to be achieved by both Fire and Water and by the Council and a Side Letter (covering the transfer of funds from the Council which were agreed in April 2014). There is a Memorandum of Understanding which states the Council’s willingness for discussions to take place in the future about linking the library to the main project site.

All of these documents are available to Members – just get in touch with a Board member or with our Administrator to arrange to view them. As soon as we can we will get them onto the F&W website.

The original Business Plan has been reviewed and amended to account for the removal of the Library from the lease but this is only an interim review – we will be preparing a new Business Plan in the next few months alongside a Development Plan which we are currently preparing. We never lost faith but are delighted and extremely relieved that these negotiations are now concluded!

We owe special thanks to Councillors and Council Officers who supported us throughout the years and in particular to Steve Hoyle of CAFM and his team who have toiled with us seemingly endlessly. Another special thanks to Linda Heald for scrutinising so many editions of the documents and giving us a great deal of advice.

What’s next for Fire & Water?