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What is the aim of this project?

We want to create a place where people living and working in Cradley, Mathon and Storridge can meet, play and shop.  

After discussing our initial plans with local residents, we have concluded that the new space should consist of a shop, café, play area and associated car parking on Morgan’s Field.


Which field is 'Morgan's Field'?

Morgan’s Field is a beautiful 4-acre site that sits between both halves of Cradley, at the intersection of Kingsbridge and Mathon Road. 


How would the Heart project be funded?

We estimate that a new Heart will cost around £500,000.

Our project is NOT backed by developers, nor will it involve selling village land or assets. However, there are a variety of funding opportunities that include: 

  • a Power to Change Grant (a £150m lottery-funded initiative that helps community projects start-up and prosper) 
  • local people to buy community shares 
  • applying for a share of the Community Infrastructure Levy that developers have to pay as part of any approved developments 
  • a loan in the form of a mortgage

Can Cradley really raise the funds to build a shop and cafe?

Absolutely. Far smaller communities than Cradley have successfully raised the funds to build their own facilities. Take Brockweir for instance. A community of 500 people raised £70,000 within their community. The remaining £330,000 to complete their project was through loans and grants. 2015 was their 10th anniversary and they are now debt free. Cradley’s population in the 2011 census was 1667.


How can a shop and cafe succeed when the old shop couldn’t?

Community shops are not like a traditional business - they are a whole new model and have a huge success rateTaking Brockwier as an example again, with their population of 500, the annual turnover for their shop and cafe is £300,000 with a 25-30% profit margin.

Plunkett Foundation is a national organisation that supports the development of community-owned shops. There are currently over 320 community shops in the UK. In the last 20 years only 13 shops have closed, and none since 2012. This is a success rate of 96% that compares favourably to the 47% failure rate of small businesses. Community shops have two big advantages over traditional businesses: 

  1. the community invests financially and emotionally in the venture - local people buy shares in the project and volunteer their time
  2. as community shops are run by volunteers there is a minimal wage bill to pay

What impact would a new shop and cafe have on existing businesses?

The people living in our villages and the surrounding area have supported a number of businesses over the years. We have already met with existing businesses to discuss how we can work in close partnership with them so that the new Heart has a positive rather than negative impact. 


Traffic

  • We have consulted with Hereforshire's Highway Dept to ensure we meet their safety requirements
  • Morgan’s Field is on the same road as the old village shop 
  • The same road coped with two huge gluts of traffic every day when the school was in its old location
  • All parking for the Heart will be off-road
  • Given its central location we hope people will be keen to walk to the shop and we envisage better footpaths to it

The ‘Strategic Gap’

Some years ago, the Parish Council designated an area between the eastern and western parts of Cradley as a ‘Strategic’ or ‘Green’ Gap. Strategic Gaps are usually parcels of land between separate towns or villages whose inhabitants wish to stop them ‘coalescing’.  In our case, the council adopted the term to prevent housing development on the so-called ‘beanfield’ - an area that lies between Cradley Brook and what’s known as ‘bumpy lane’.

The council has now published its first draft of the Neighbourhood Development Plan and asked everyone who lives or works in Cradley to comment on it. 

This document proposes to extend the ‘gap’ to include not just the beanfield but virtually all the land between the eastern and western parts of Cradley.  And it says not only that houses should not be built here but that the whole of this large area should be ‘protected from all development except that which may be required to mitigate flood risk’. 

We take this to mean that our community shop and café could not be built on Morgan’s Field.  As currently worded, the NDP would stop Heart of the Village in its tracks. 

Our project has strong local support - 84 per cent of those who responded to our survey welcomed HoV - and we hope you’ll help us ensure it can proceed. The obvious answer would be for the council to allow a community project like HoV in the ‘gap’ but prevent houses from being built there. However, the planning consultant hired by the NDP group says it would be difficult to frame such a policy. As Morgan’s Field will be owned by the Community Benefit Society, there is no risk that it could ever be developed for housing or that the shop could be sold as a house; all assets remain ‘locked’ for community use at all times. 

We have therefore asked those who support the project to tell the council that they should exclude Morgan’s Field from the ‘gap’ altogether.


Flooding

It’s no secret that ‘our’ field sometimes floods.  Will the building itself be at risk and could the project make matters worse elsewhere?  Our expert advisers say no.  The area on which our building sits is above any predicable flood levels and our planting will help limit - rather than increase - flood risk downstream.

Our consultants and the council say the data we provided on this subject was accurate and appropriate. Crucially, the Environment Agency have told Hereford they have no concerns about the project from a flood perspective.


What is a Community Benefit Society?

Community Benefit Societies are incorporated industrial and provident societies that conduct business for the benefit of their community. Profits are not distributed among members, or external shareholders, but returned to the community. They are Ltd so the liability of a Member is limited to the amount of their shareholding.

The governing rules of our Community Benefit Society were defined with the help of Co-operatives UK and comply with the Co-operative and Community Benefit Societies Act 2014. 

The Board of Directors will be elected by and from the Society’s Members. The current Board of Directors is formed from the founding members - Alan Eldridge, Chairman, Sarah Herriot, Secretary, and Holly Welford as Finance Manager. They will stay in position until the first general meeting when they will stand down and a full election takes place.

In our recent questionnaire over 170 respondents said they would be interested in buying shares and thereby becoming a member of the Society. These were all members of the local community so it’s likely there will be a majority of locals involved in the project. It is also important to note that no matter how many shares a member owns, all members only have one vote each.


What are the advantages of being a Community Benefit Society?

  • it prioritises the interests of the wider community over the needs of its members or investors 
  • it allows for community investment from as low as £10 to as high as £100,000
  • voting control is vested in the members equally, not in proportion to their financial stake in the society: one member one vote 
  • any trade profit is distributed or reinvested for social or charitable purposes
  • free support with key elements such as business planning, constitutional arrangements and grant applications is available from Community First, Plunkett Foundation and Village SOS

What happens if the Communtiy Benefit Society dissolves?

Beyond the fact that investors could lose the money they lend to the society and/or invest in shares, there is limited risk to the wider community.

The Society will establish a reserve for managing unexpected contingencies such as uninsured losses, business interruption or failure and employing temporary staff or making redundancy payments. It would be prudent to allocate 20% of retained profits annually to contribute towards this reserve.

Should the business fail, any residual assets, after all members share capital has been refunded according to the rules of the Society, must be transferred to one or more of the following: another community benefit society, a community interest company, a charity or a charitable community benefit society. This is specified through an asset lock already incorporated into the society rules. An asset lock is a legal device preventing the distribution of residual assets to members. The purpose of an asset lock is to ensure that the community benefit is maintained, and cannot be of private benefit. 

Whichever group or groups receive the residual assets should find the building and land can be used to generate sufficient income to be self-financing or even generate a small surplus for local projects. The value of the asset should greatly exceed the cost of insurance, maintenance or administration.

The building and land will never be available for residential development because of its proximity to the flood plain.


Sustainability

We have an opportunity to create a multi-use building that will meet the needs of our community for many years to come. It will be an energy efficient building which utilitizes renewable energy sources such as ground source heat pump and solar energy. 


Is Heart of the Village a Parish Council project?

From the start, Cradley Parish Council fully supported the proposal to create a new central focus for the village. Two Parish Councillors are also part of the leadership team. But, having taken advice from a number of community enterprise organisations including Community First and Plunkett Foundation, a Community Benefit Society was set up to progress the project. It will be run separately from the Parish Council but the council will remain a key stakeholder. 

  • Update Thursday 28th December 2017

    Our planning application was due to be discussed at the Planning and Regulatory Committee on Wednesday 17th January 2018. It was with great disappointment that we have received an email from...

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  • Statement to the Parish Council Thursday 10th August 2017

    On the evening of Tuesday 8th August, Cradley Parish Council discussed the revised plans for the Heart of the Village project. Thank you to everyone who attended the meeting to give their support...

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  • Planning Application Wednesday 28th June 2017

    We have finally managed to get all our updates in for planning. We updated our wildlife survey on Morgans field and we were very excited to have found evidence of otter passing through. We found no...

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  • New Year Update Friday 27th January 2017

    Our planning application is still with Hereford. We are waiting for input from the Highways Department before we finalise the revisions to our application. We have been asked about the status of our...

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