The team behind a vital Morecambe arts venue are calling on the community to come together and help save their home.
Just weeks ago, The Visitor reported on the Exchange Creative Community team’s plans for expansion after they believed their agreement to take over the former Trinity Methodist Church had come to fruition.
They had hoped to adapt the building as a community arts studio and enterprise hub, project space and community cafe. But now they are facing an uncertain future after the owners of the building, in West Street, gave them notice to leave.
Director Beki Melrose said the news had come as a shock.
“We were sent a solicitor’s letter saying the owners have decided to send it to auction, despite being close to an agreement with us,” she said.
“In November 2016 the owners gave us verbal permission to use the building. Now it seems they want to sell it and would rather there was no one in it to do so. We were given eight weeks’ notice to vacate the building. We have until September 20 to vacate the premises and then the auction will be after that.
“Already we have achieved so much, but the clock is now ticking and we could lose the opportunity to bring this heritage building, located in the very heart of our area, into community ownership and use. We will be doing everything we can to raise the money needed for the auction. We are keeping a positive attitude.”
It is feared a private investor could otherwise buy the church for redevelopment.
“Someone could just see it as a private investment opportunity which would undermine everyone’s efforts here,” Beki said. “We want it to be community-owned. It’s about people coming together.”
The team is now launching a crowdfunding campaign, and alongside that will be seeking pledges for community shares. They are also exploring options to get a loan underwritten.
In addition, they are asking supporters to sign a petition to support a bid for the church to be listed as an Asset of Community Value.
This would give the team the chance to ‘pause’ the sale, giving them up to six months to find the funding required to buy the property.
The ‘Steeple For The People’ campaign can be found online at https://www.theexchangecic.co.uk/steeple-for-the-people
The Visitor was unable to contact the church owners for comment.