Update and Factsheet on Morlands

Simon Fairlie 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).


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  

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  
traffic lights.

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  

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  
at Langport.
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.

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.

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.

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.

Chapter 7
The Potato Store, Flaxdrayton, South Petherton, Somerset, TA13 5LR

01460 249204          chapter7 at tlio.org.uk

Hello all,

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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