Villagers smash £100,000 target to create heritage centre and cafe
By Nicky Carter - Reporter
A COMMUNITY group hoping to turn a former Methodist chapel into a cafe, shop and heritage centre have smashed their fundraising target of £100,000.
The Cotherstone Old Chapel Project's share issue, which closed last week, pulled in £117,000, with an additional £1,500 in donations from residents after running for two months. The group ran a number of successful promotional events, including pop-up cafes, to encourage people to take shares in the scheme.
Plans for the chapel’s conversion have been submitted to Durham County Council and work to finalise the lease on the building is ongoing.
The group’s chairman, Chris Tarpey, said: “We are delighted with the outcome of the share issue. We are especially pleased with the commitment from the local community – about 45 per cent of local households have invested.
“Together with the positivity we got from the pop-up cafe events, it gives us the confidence to move forward to the next stage, where we can start to make the vision a reality. There’s still a lot of work to be done, but with the backing of investors, volunteers and the committee, I’m sure we can make it happen.
“We’d also like to reassure all our investors that we won't start to spend any of their money until everything is in place and we can deliver the project to its full potential. Plans are ongoing to secure the additional funding required, obtain planning permission, and negotiate a lease on the building.”
Last week, Cotherstone Parish Council agreed in principle to donate £1,500 to help fund publicity materials, providing matched funding is secured.
Clerk Judith Mashiter had earlier updated parish councillors on the amount raised by The Cotherstone Old Chapel Project.
Cllr Vince Bendin said: “It does demonstrate what is possible. My concern is the footfall figures in the business plan. They did say that would be the biggest challenge to get those figures accurate, but on a very rainy morning they brought in significant numbers of people [for the pop-up cafe].
“I was very impressed. It doesn’t necessarily mean that we should give the money,
but it was a very successful event.”
Cllr Richard Hunter said: “They still have to get their planning passed and they are still working on the lease. I asked if they had heard about the match funding and they haven’t. I think we should just leave it [the donation] at the moment.”
Cllr Robert Johnson asked: “Are we playing devil’s advocate or are we stalling?”
The council agreed to discuss the matter at the next meeting in January.