Staying alive: a community-led bid for the Co-op Funeralcare building

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On Thursday 26 September, more than 60 people turned up to a meeting organised by the Chorlton Co-op Cluster at Oswald Road primary school. The purpose of the meeting was to hear about plans to save the former Gaumont cinema where the Bee Gees first performed, now the Co-op Funeralcare building, from development as retirement flats.

After an introduction by Shaun Fenson of the Chorlton Co-op cluster, Councillor Eve Holt spoke about the importance of communities having a say in development in their area, and relayed a message of support from Withington MP Jeff Smith.

At the end of the meeting Hazel and Justine Gibb confirmed that the Gibb family and the worldwide community of Bee Gee fans all support the campaign.

But before then, Chris Peacock and Simon Hooton of Chorlton Community Land Trust talked about their ideas:

Artists impression image: Hawkins\Generation

Back in March the Co-op put the FuneralCare building on Nicolas Road, Chorlton up for sale. This was done quietly, without consultation with local residents and the city council. Since then, Chorlton Community Land Trust have been working to try to ensure the building is retained and to help make Chorlton a more vibrant place for residents and visitors. We have been working with developers and local residents to generate a plan. We have also been in dialogue with the City Council and the Co-op too. Everyone agrees our ideas would really enhance Chorlton, but we face an investment challenge!

The Co-op has a preferred bid which would see the building being demolished and replaced by flats. We are not against more housing in Chorlton, but want this unique site and building to be retained for something of wider benefit and value to the community. We have been working with a developer on plans to convert the old cinema building at the front into a market style food hall with flexible scope to also be a performance space for occasional live music and cinema nights. The garage building at the rear would be replaced by a community health centre for the local GP practice with potentially a gym, community space and some affordable housing. We are keen to integrate the development with the upcoming re-development of the precinct and to create a new public square at the bottom of Nicolas Road. The building also has Bee Gees heritage and we have Gibb family members ready to harness the fan base for support too.

We have adopted the working title ‘Staying Alive’ as we want healthy living, quality food, active lifestyles and a vibrant heart of Chorlton at the core of our plans. And we couldn’t really pass up the chance to underline the Bee Gees link.

Our ‘Staying Alive’ presentation summarises what we have been up to and sets out some of our ideas.

We are about to launch a crowd sourced fund raising exercise and are aiming to raise a minimum of £250k in the next 6 weeks. We need all the help we can get from

– Donors/investors

– People with skills to help promote our campaign

– And from people with local connections and profile

This is a one-off opportunity for the local community have a stake in a more vibrant Chorlton that builds on our reputation for food and leisure, puts better healthily living services in place and retains our distinctive local identity, while attracting more spending for local businesses and creating new facilities for our community. We have a good base of initial support and think we can reach our targets with the right help and publicity.

Please do let us know how you think you can help – contact us on hello@chorltonclt.org