Who we are
The Friends of Meersbrook Hall are a group of local residents, park users and people passionate about heritage, who have come together to try and reclaim Meersbrook Hall for community use. We come from a wide range of backgrounds and have members young and old.
We meet regularly as a group to discuss and agree the key decisions in the project – you can read our constitution here. Our management committee co-ordinates the work of the group and is made up of the following volunteers:
- Co-Chairs: Kate Souper and Laura Holmes
- Secretary: currently vacant
- Treasurer: Rebecca McCormick
- IT Lead: Anthony Ashton
- Heritage Lead: Rhian Thomas
- General committee members: Martin Black, Joanna Rucklidge, Paul Brooke, Ann Ryan
If you share our vision of redeveloping Meersbrook Hall as a thriving hub for the community and an asset to the park, please sign up as a member; If you have time or skills that you think you could contribute to the project, then please let us know; everyone’s input is welcomed.
The story so far
In July 2014, Meersbrook Park Users Trust (MPUT) called a meeting of local residents and park users following rumours that the Council planned to move their staff to another site. 60 people attended this meeting, as did two local councillors, who confirmed the rumours and said that the council would be vacating the Hall within two years.
People were concerned that the building and part of the park might be sold for private development, so a public meeting was organised to raise awareness of the issue and gather local opinion. 150 people attended this public meeting in September 2014, unanimously supporting a campaign to prevent the building’s sale and working together to return it to community use.
The Friends of Meersbrook Hall was formally constituted in April 2015, and continued positive discussions with the council and other local community organisations over the summer of 2015. It has now grown to having over 600 members.
Local charity, Heeley Development Trust (HDT) , shares our aim of developing the Hall for the benefit of the local community and has the expertise, infrastructure and track record to deliver a project of this size; the footprint of the Hall is 12,000 sq feet and it has over 60 rooms. Recognising that HDT has so much to offer the Friends, our members voted to enter a partnership with HDT in June 2015. Soon afterwards, Sheffield City Council agreed to delay making a decision about the future of the Hall whilst we undertook feasibilty studies to determine whether community management of the building is financially viable. HDT then successfully applied for national Community Ownership and Management of Assets (COMA) expert advice and £10,000 funding on behalf of the group. This enabled us to undertake a detailed structural report on the building, early feasibility studies to assess the amount of money required to bring the building to a good condition, and preliminary business planning. It also provided expert advice regarding funding and explored, in partnership with the council, the process of transferring the Hall to community management.
We were delighted that the early feasibility study indicated that our plan to redevelop the building as mixed community and business use is entirely possible. This enabled us to enter into a temporary ‘licence to occupy’ agreement following the relocation of Council staff in May 2016. It has been really exciting to to be able to spend time in the building and see the potential of the Hall ourselves. HDT are transferring their adult learning courses into the building so that it is occupied throughout the week. We are negotiating a two year lease whilst we apply for the significant funding required to restore the Hall in a manner that reflects its significant heritage. Once the lease is in place we will be able to start subletting offices and spaces for makers and artists in order to cover the running costs for the building.
HDT is our local community development trust and a member of Locality. It manages a number of projects including: a community owned and managed park, Heeley People’s Park, a community magazine, Heeley Voice, a bike project ReCycle, and digital inclusion and adult learning projects.
Most significantly, HDT rescued and refurbished the old Anns Grove School site in Heeley and are transforming three derelict Grade II listed Victorian School Board buildings into a dynamic mix of arts, business and community spaces Sum Studios. The first phase of the redevelopment for creative businesses is complete and 100% let, and HDT are currently working towards embarking on the second phase, the arts and community studios.
You can read more about Heeley Development Trust and their work here.
We meet regularly as a group to discuss and agree key decisions, and all future meetings will take place in Meersbrook Hall. Please sign up as a member or visit our Facebook page to hear about our next meeting.
Here is an archive of minutes of our members meetings.