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  Reprinted from Newsletter 127, dated 2009 January

Press statements from the Southwest Regional Development Agency

[These articles were archived from the former SWRDA website before the incoming Conservative government abolished all nine regional development agencies in 2012. Newsletter 127 published only a link to the SWRDA website, but here now are these press releases in full. —Ed.]

2009 Jan 09: South West RDA to meet protesters at Morlands

The South West RDA will meet on Monday (January 12) in Glastonbury with protestors occupying a dangerous derelict building on the Morlands site.

Also, the Agency has accepted an invitation by the Mayor of Glastonbury, Tom Billing, to attend a Glastonbury Town Council meeting (date to be confirmed) to give a public update on Morlands and discuss future prospects for the site as a whole. Cllr Billing has also been invited to Monday's meeting with the protestors.

At the end of last year the Agency announced it needed to demolish the red brick buildings at the Morlands development site because of serious concerns for the safety of young people who have been breaking into it in recent months.

A small group of protestors broke into the building on Monday January 5 and occupied it to prevent the planned start of demolition.

The RDA will meet with representatives of the protestors to explain the reasons for the demolition and listen to their concerns.

Carl Budden, head of regeneration at the South West RDA, said:

"We understand that the community is calling for more information about the site. The private meeting with protestors and proposed meeting with the Council are two of a number of measures we will be carrying out to improve communications.

"We are pleased to accept the Mayor's invitation and discuss issues relating to the development in public."

The Agency has been criticised for announcing the demolition on Christmas Eve.

Carl Budden continues: "Demolition was not confirmed and the date was not set until only a matter of days before we briefed the local paper on December 17 so we gave the community as much notice as we could in the circumstances.

"We hope the protestors will leave the site as soon as Monday's meeting has finished and following this commitment to take part in the Town Council's meeting."

2008 Dec 24: Serious safety issues lead to demolition of Morlands redbrick building

The red brick building at Morlands is to be demolished in early January because of serious safety concerns for groups of young people that have been breaking into it in recent months.

The South West RDA, which owns the land, has taken the decision to prevent serious injury, which has become an increasing risk.

Carl Budden, head of regeneration at the Agency, said: "We have carefully considered all our options and unfortunately this is the only way we can be assured of safeguarding local people from this significant risk.

"We understand that this building is part of the history of the site but it has now deteriorated beyond economic repair. We have been forced to take this difficult decision now because, above all, we don't want to see anyone get hurt."

The red brick building sits on the land that is to be developed by Urban Splash. The Agency had kept it initially in case refurbishment could be made to work but recent events have meant that the risks associated with keeping the building outweigh the benefits.

The Agency has worked hard to make the site secure having introduced 24 hour security which means there is a security guard on patrol at all times. The doors and windows of the red brick building have also been boarded up but this has not stopped people breaking in.

Carl Budden said: "We have considered other options such as blocking up openings with concrete blocks and erecting security fencing but our fear is that determined youngsters will still get in and we simply cannot take that risk. The only safe action is to demolish the building."

Councillor Harvey Siggs, Leader of Mendip District Council, said:

"We are sorry to see this part of the history of the Morlands site disappear, however we recognise that safety is of paramount concern in these circumstances.

"It is more essential to recognise and welcome the RDA's commitment to bringing the more important historic Listed Baily's Buildings back into use along with the redevelopment of the rest of the site."

The demolition contractor will salvage as many materials as possible from the building for re-use elsewhere.

A detailed bat survey that was carried out in December shows there are no bats in the building. However there will be a bat expert present during the initial stages of demolition when the roof tiles will be removed and each one checked to ensure there are no bats hibernating. If any are found, they will be safely removed and re-housed.

Demolition is due to start on Monday January 5 and should be completed by the middle of February.

2006 Dec 13: Leading developers to kick-start Morlands regeneration

The first businesses are set to be moving onto the Morlands Enterprise Park in Glastonbury by early 2008, with two of the UK's leading regeneration specialists now signed up to transform the site.

Developers Urban Splash and Priority Sites will be working with site owners, the South West of England Regional Development Agency to create 115,000 sq ft of high quality business space on part of the 31 acre former tannery site. Together, they will be providing opportunities for or protecting up to 400 jobs for Glastonbury, Street and the surrounding area.

Carl Budden, Somerset head of operations for the South West RDA said: "These are two of the best developers in the country for a project like Morlands. They have very exciting plans for regenerating the site and providing the range and quality of workspace which the area does not currently offer."

Priority Sites will be speculatively developing nine buildings totalling 30,000 sq ft aimed primarily at the owner occupier market. They intend to start construction in late Spring 2007 when site infrastructure works have been completed and plan to have the first buildings ready for occupiers by the end of next year.

Miles Carden, area development manager at Priority Sites says: "We are delighted to be working with the South West RDA on this very significant development project that will transform an unused piece of land into a commercial hub for the area by providing much-needed top quality premises with the versatility that businesses require."

Urban Splash will be creating 85,000 sq ft flexible workspace through the restoration and conversion of listed buildings on the site combined with contemporary new build. Covering 5 acres, their scheme will provide high quality commercial space for a range of business from start-ups to SMEs of 40 or 50 people. Buildings will be integrated with new public spaces and cafes which will encourage social interaction and help create a thriving community. They intend to submit a planning application in Summer 2007 and to retain and manage their completed development at Morlands.

James Howard, development manager at Urban Splash says: "The Morlands site has tremendous potential once again to become an important business venue. We believe by combining the Listed buildings with the new properties we can create a genuinely exciting environment that can meet the needs of companies large and small alike. At the same time the designs envisaged will allow real flexibility for companies as they grow and need more space."

Morlands Enterprise Park is being driven forward by the recently-formed Morlands Executive Group, comprising the South West RDA and its partners Mendip District Council and Somerset County Council.

Ken Maddock, leader of Mendip District Council says: ""This is a good day. The Morlands site has been an eyesore for far too long. Now we are seeing really vibrant economic regeneration in action. This means local jobs for local people. It's a good day for Glastonbury and a good day for Mendip."

Paul Buchanan, deputy leader of Somerset County Council says: "It is excellent that two of the UK's leading regeneration specialists are signed up to move this project forward. The Morlands Enterprise Park will provide much needed space for businesses starting up as well as small to mediums sized companies. It will undoubtedly lead to a thriving community that will regenerate the area and boost the local economy. Good news for the people of Glastonbury, Street and the rest of Somerset. I look forward to seeing the redevelopment take shape in the coming year."

Urban Splash and Priority Sites have strong-track records for delivering pioneering high quality regeneration schemes across the country.

Urban Splash is one of the UK's most imaginative and innovative urban developers responsible for regeneration success stories such as Royal William Yard in Plymouth. The company has a particular strength in the sensitive restoration and conversion of listed buildings.

Priority Sites is a joint venture between national regeneration agency English Partnerships and the Royal Bank of Scotland. The company specialises in speculative development of high quality new build industrial and 'hybrid' work space and has completed a number of successful schemes in the South West, totalling 200,000 sq ft and creating 550 jobs.

There will be an opportunity for members of the public and community groups to meet the developers to find out more about their plans at an all-day event on 18th January in Glastonbury Town Hall.

Notes to Editors

1.The South West RDA is currently in negotiations with local manufacturing company Avalon for a 3.89 acre site at Morlands Enterprise Park fronting the A39.

2.Infrastructure works are well underway on the site, with remediation work complete and road and other site works due for completion next Spring.

Contact: Caroline Harris -- Tel: 0117 944 1415

2006 Nov 29: Morlands infrastructure works move ahead

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2006 Sept 14: Plastics firm offered site at Morlands

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A local plastics firm has been offered a site at the Morlands Enterprise Park near Glastonbury.

The owner, the South West of England Regional Development Agency, is in detailed negotiations with the firm, Avalon Plastics, over a site for the rapidly-expanding plastics technology company.

The Agency originally turned down a request from the company for a site at Morlands but has now reviewed the situation based on the likely delays in finding an alternative site.

The Agency is also making significant progress on plans for the remainder of the 12.5 hectare (31 acre) park and intends to make an announcement about these soon.

Colin Molton, deputy chief executive at the South West RDA explained: "Whilst we had hoped to relocate Avalon to a site immediately adjoining the Morlands Enterprise Park, we recognised that this site might not be available quickly enough. In light of this and Avalon's strong preference for a site fronting the A39 we have reconsidered our position and have written to Avalon offering them a site at Morlands."

He added that: "We are still keen to attract firms from our target sectors to Morlands to help secure long-term economic growth for the area, however, we realise that it is also important to meet the needs of local firms where we can. The acute shortage of employment space in the area is putting pressure on sites like Morlands, making it difficult to accommodate all the companies who would like to relocate there."

Commenting on the negotiations, Paul Darley, manufacturing director of Avalon Plastics said: "We have been speaking to the Agency for several months about finding a new site as our existing building is outdated and simply cannot cope with modern production requirements.

"We want to be part of Morlands Enterprise Park as it is an exciting project for Somerset and the ideal location for our expanding company. The RDA should be given credit for recognising the needs of our company which has seen sales grow by 60 per cent in the past three years and this offer means we can now plan for our future expansion."

Avalon Plastics recently submitted planning applications to Mendip District Council to build a new factory on the Morlands site and convert their existing site into out-of-town retail units.

The scale of the Morlands development is currently causing some traffic congestion problems at the site due to single lane traffic and temporary traffic lights. The Agency acknowledges the difficulties this is causing.

Carl Budden, the RDA's head of operations for Somerset commented: "We fully recognise the problems caused by traffic congestion in the surrounding area and we understand people's frustration. We must stress, however, that the existing system is temporary. The permanent traffic light system that will be installed has been the subject of traffic modelling and has been approved by the County Council as the highways authority and Mendip District Council as the local planning authority."

Editors Notes

1. The South West RDA is working in partnership with Mendip District Council to redevelop the Morlands site into an employment-led sustainable development which will play a significant role in regenerating the communities of Glastonbury, Street and the surrounding area.

The project aims to create long-lasting high quality employment and investment in the area by supplying workspace primarily for cutting-edge businesses such as creative industries, aerospace, ICT and environmental technologies.

The South West RDA bought the site in April 2001, which previously housed the Morlands and Bailys tanneries which closed down in 1985 and 1992 respectively.

2. The South West RDA was established by government in 1999 to promote the long-term economic success in the region. It does this by working with others to give people the skills they need, encouraging enterprise, improving infrastructure, helping communities with regeneration and promoting the strengths of the region.

Contact: Caroline Harris -- Tel: 0117 944 1415 -- Email: info@chpr.co.uk


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