Update and Factsheet on Morlands
chapter7 at tlio.org.uk
Tue Jan 6 21:11:58 GMT 2009
Here a factsheet on Morlands followed by an update on the occupation
to prevent demolition of the site.
(apologies for any double posting).
FACTSHEET ON MORLANDS
Fifteen protesters have occupied the “Red Brick” buildings at the
Southern End of the Morlands site between Glastonbury and Street in
Somerset. The occupied buildings are scheduled for demolition by the
South West Regional Development Agency, commencing today, 5 January
BRIEF HISTORY: THE £20 MILLION TRAFFIC LIGHTS
Formerly the site of the Morlands leather works, this is the largest
derelict industrial site in the South West and most of it has
remained empty for over 20 years. It was privately owned until 2001,
by a consortium who hoped to put a large retail development on the
site, but this was resisted by Glastonbury Town and Mendip District
Council who wanted to keep it for employment.
In 2001, The Land Is Ours and some local people planned an occupation
of the site, but called it off at the last moment when the SW
Regional Development Agency suddenly bought the site, claiming it was
going to redevelop it “sustainably”.
In the intervening 8 years, the RDA has done nothing to the site
except demolish over half the buildings, even though most of these
were assessed as beng sound by a surveyor’s report (see below). It
has also left a whole row of terraced houses derelict. It has also
built a set of traffic lights, known locally as the £20million
All of these demolitions occurred at short notice after repeated
assurances to concerned members of the public that the buildings
would not be demolished.
A week before Christmas 2009, the RDA announced that they would be
demolishing the Red Brick buildings on the 5 January, on the pretext
that kids are getting in and might hurt themselves! But you don't
demolish tens of thousands of square feet of well built workshops
that would cost many millions of pounds to build again, just to save
the wages of a night watchman.
This has been typical of the SW RDA’s approach all along. We hear
similar reports from other regions and in 2008 a Radio 4 documentary
produced examples of this kind of behaviour from RDAs around the
REFUSAL TO CONSIDER LOCAL PROPOSALS
Prior to demolition, the RDA has refused to consider at least three
major local proposals for sustainable redevelopment of the existing
buildings. One of these was a joint venture between Bristol
University Technology Hub and The Somerset Trust for Sustainable
Devlopment (now ECOS), who built the award-winning Bow Yard ecohomes
All representations from the organizations promoting these three
projects were ignored by the RDA, who mostly simply refused to reply.
The RDA has also refused to consider any request from individuals and
small businesses to rent any of the premises. Local groups have
petitioned the RDA to rent out some of the buildings on a cheap and
cheerful repair lease, at least on a short term basis. Next to
Morlands there is a small employment site for small businesses,
called Bridie’s Yard, where there is always excess demand for the units.
ARCHITECTURE: NORTH LIGHT BUILDINGS
One of the buildings destroyed was the 1952 Hepworth Building, the
first vaulted north light building ever erected in the UK. It was
occupied up until 1995, but was demolished at very short notice on
the grounds that it was “unsafe”; no time was given for objectors to
examine the evidence. Many people in the town assume it was
demolished because it got in the way of the RDA’s traffic scheme.
Besides the Hepworth building, another even larger building known as
the Bauhaus, also demolished, and the red brick building now under
threat are all north light industrial buildings. These are carbon
friendly because they require less daytime lighting, and they are
oriented perfectly for taking solar panels.
The RDA claims that the site is contaminated, yet a report carried
out for the previous owners by EMV Enviroclean in 1994 stated that it
would cost just £12,000 to clean up the site.
VIABILITY OF REFURBISHMENT
A report commissioned by Mendip Council and carried out in 2000 by
Watts and partners estimated the costs of refurbishing eight, out of
the 11 principal buildings at £2,875,000 in total — less than half
the price reputed to have been paid by the RDA for the site, and a
fraction of the £30 million estimated by the RDA as necessary for
total redevelopment of the site.
THE RDA’S AIM
Local people believe that the RDA’s aim is to demolish as much as
possible on the site so that they can offer oven-ready Brownfield
sites to their friends in the development industry. There are also
well-founded rumours that Avalon Plastics, a Glastonbury factory, has
been invited to relocate onto part of the site, thereby releasing
their old site for the retail development that the town and district
council’s didn’t want — which will result in a loss of employment land.
The Potato Store, Flaxdrayton, South Petherton, Somerset, TA13 5LR
01460 249204 chapter7 at tlio.org.uk
We're now reaching the 24 hour mark and we have achieved a huge amount
already. Once again, we would very much like to thank all those who
have helped our efforts with donations, support, even just by honking
their horns. This morning brought TV interviews, newspaper interviews
and a lot of general interest. Following on from this, the RDA have
released a statement; announcing they're confident that once they
demonstrate to us how unsafe the building is, that we will leave of
our own accord.
Unfortunately, as this statement was not released directly to us, but
via the media, and as we still have not had any contact with the RDA,
we cannot help but wonder how seriously we are being taken. They have
indicated that they wish to meet us tomorrow, which we will very
happily do, off the property of course.
We are still here, and do not intend to leave until we have reached an
agreement about the future of the buildings, and the site as a whole.
The RDA has consistently failed to provide good value for money
solutions for our community - something which we now wish to change.
We believe that there is a great potential in this building and the
wider site, potential which, if fully realised, would be economically
and socially viable, and successful.
We would like to stress again that we would like to talk with the RDA
and the community about the future of this site.
Once again, thanks for all of the support, and we will keep you
updated as much as possible.
All the best,
The Morlands crew.
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