West Wales costal community helping to fortify the future of a local maritime icon
Dilys Burrnell and committed group of volunteers in Pembroke Dock have set their sights on bringing the Front Street Gun Tower into the hands of the community through Pembroke Dock Community Assets Limited.
See this page in: Cymraeg
Pembroke Dock Community Assets Limited sprung up out of a crisis. We’d heard informally that a local historic building close to many people’s hearts, the Front Street Gun Tower, was going to be put into a public auction. It’s part of the fabric of the town’s history and is the image you see when you Google our town! So, we pulled out all the stops, talked and talked and talked, and eventually managed to persuade the County Council to first take the building out of an upcoming auction, and finally, 9 months later, they got in touch to confirm that the building would be considered for a Community Asset Transfer under a newly adopted, much improved, Community Asset Transfer policy.
"The community really got behind the campaign to keep the tower in community ownership, with many, many people signing the petition or registering their interest in community shares to help us buy the building."
We’ve achieved a lot as a small, tight group of people, with vocal community support. We’ve held well-supported public events, collected online and paper petitions with more than 1,000 signatures and had offers of support from across the world. We’ve learnt so much, on such a steep learning curve, and set up a brand new organisation that can hopefully develop to become a central organisation in our town.
A major challenge has been time. We’re all busy people. We have also had to convince the Council and others we have the right skills and experience to take on the complicated and expensive commitment to maintain the building. Also, working to some crazy timescales and deadlines, with what sometimes felt like constantly changing goal posts and competing private sector interest. Obviously, the next big challenge for us will be adapting our plans to the ‘new normal’, being a project-based on tourism we will need to make some big changes. We also need to work on bringing a wider group of people and volunteers on board to help us further develop and deliver our vision.
So many people have helped us along the way, from the pub across the way offering to help with cleaning and painting, to people with loads of experience in community asset transfers or historic buildings to people from across the world getting in touch to see how they can help – it’s been amazing to see what we can achieve together. A huge big up also needs to go out to the County Council’s decision makers for listening to our community and adapting their plans when challenged.
So far, we’ve only had an initial meeting with Social Business Wales New Start, but we’re hoping that we can get some good support with developing our detailed business plan over the Autumn and Winter. The networking sessions have also been great for meeting supportive and like-minded people from across the country, which is certainly one of the benefits of more online working!
My one message for anyone looking at a similar project or generally working in the social enterprise sector right now would be not to try to do everything at once and by yourself, take one step at a time and reach out for help!
Find out more about the campaign on the ‘Save the Front Street Gun Tower’ Facebook page.
Dilys is one of the social entrepreneurs who have attended the ‘Start up with a cuppa’ mutual peer support sessions where people from start-up social enterprises in Wales can meet and discuss ideas, best practice and future collaborations with each other. You can sign up for the July mutual support sessions here. See you there!
Pembroke Dock Community Assets has received business consultancy support and advice from Social Business Wales New Start, funded by the European Regional Development Fund and delivered by the Wales Co-operative Centre.
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