Big cash boost for Morecambe hub plans that would help transform West End

Plans for a major community-led enterprise hub in Morecambe have received a significant boost from an organisation which aims to improve the West End.

Friday, 13th November 2020, 3:45 pm
WEM chairman Chris Price with Beki Melrose, director at The Exchange, outside the old Co-op building known as Centenary House.

West End Morecambe – Big Local has pledged its largest funded support to date - £100,000 - towards the transformation of the old Co-op building in Regent Road.

The site, known as Centenary House, is currently owned by Lancaster City Council and is empty apart from a Co-op food store.

The Exchange community group has plans to develop the basement, ground floor and first floor in the first phase to Covid-proof the business plan.

The building would accommodate people setting up businesses alongside creative community activity and provide affordable co-working spaces while improving the look of a main route into the West End.

Other plans include a community cafe, shop, gallery, tool library, workshop and meeting rooms as well as specialist studios for printmaking, digital, textiles and woodwork.

WEM chairman Chris Price said: “This is the first step into the realm of commissioning for WEM with the potential support of scores of small local business and enterprises through a single project, which in itself will make a major difference to the West End.”

WEM has agreed to earmark a potential £100,000 as part of its Action Plan theme of enterprise and economy subject to a strong business plan and funding from other sources including asset transfer with Lancaster City Council.

The Exchange is to approach national funders to support the project. It is changing its name to The Good Things Collective and as a Community Interest Company, it has transitioned from a small to large membership model, giving local people a real say and stake in the organisation.

Director at The Exchange, Beki Melrose said: “This decision from WEM has given our committed team and community members a huge vote of confidence. It puts us in good stead as we look to approach national funders in the final hurdle to making this project a reality.”

Although the project will be based in the West End, it is hoped that its benefits will stretch across Morecambe.

Coun. Tim Hamilton-Cox, city council cabinet member for sustainable economic prosperity, said: “In July, the cabinet decided to invest up to £425,000 in refurbishment of Centenary House to help facilitate a community business hub in the long-term empty building.

"West End Million's investment is a further big, very welcome step towards that new beginning for Centenary House and promises to make a significant contribution to the council priority for an inclusive and prosperous economy and local community wealth-building in one of the most deprived wards in the district.

"There is an emerging arts and community business network in the West End which we really want to support.”