Number 7 Rebuild
Watchet CCT had a massive part in the refurbishment of Number 7 Esplanade
One of the major recent projects undertaken by WCCT has been the refurbishment of number 7 the Esplanade. This building had been operating as the Watchet Harbour Community Bookshop for many years, established by Melanie and Alan Woolham aiming to raise funds by reselling donated books, with proceeds being given to the Cystic Fibrosis charity and local Watchet Good causes. The building had been occupied initially at a peppercorn rent, increased by West Somerset District Council (WSDC) in more recent years. In 2019 however, the Council realised that the building was no longer habitable and could not be left due to changes in government legislation. As a result, they gave notice to quit and initially proposed to sell off the building because they could not afford the cost of refurbishment.
WCCT CIC stepped in and managed to convince WSDC to grant us a lease to the building on the condition that we would bid for and obtain Lottery funding to cover the refurbishment costs. We succeeded initially through the Place Based Social Action (PBSA) programme, but when we were at last able to conduct our own survey discovered that the condition of the semi-derelict building was worse than we had been led to believe, including requiring a new roof. PBSA were unable to provide any extra funding at that time, but we managed through a parallel Lottery programme ‘Reaching Communities’ to obtain the additional funds necessary, provided that after refurbishment we would also use the building for other community uses such as delivering courses at times when the bookshop was not operating. We were also able to recruit our Project Officer through this second grant funding.
During the ongoing negotiations we were able to convince the new local authority, Somerset West and Taunton Council (SW&T), that rather than a lease, it was more advantageous financially for all parties if they granted us a community asset freehold transfer for a nominal £1, which was agreed and implemented.
Despite COVID lockdowns during 2020/21 we were able to complete the rebuild by working with a local contractor and professional project manager to full COVID safety protocols, reopening the Bookshop in May 2020.
Since that time, the Bookshop has continued to open 7 days a week between 10.30-4.30 pm, nominally April – October, with WCCT running courses at other times.