Our lottery bid for money to resource a Project Planning officer remains stalled while HLF and LB Merton sort out a plan to get past the new HLF rule that requires us to have a chargeable asset to back a major lottery bid.
Whilst we wish Robert Hobbs well in his future away from Merton, his replacement, Ingrid Lackajis, is having to go through a major catching up exercise. Hopefully, she will be able to turn her attention to us soon.
The completion of the building works in the wheel house has still not taken place, despite promises to deal with it, so we are no nearer signing the lease.
In the meantime, all is not gloom.
Firstly, the increasing damage to the exterior of Ravensbury Mill has been halted, and the door and windows mended. It had got to a stage where it was possible to take a picture of the inside by sticking a camera through the hole in the door, but combined pressure from ourselves and the residents seem to have done the trick.
More immediately interesting, is a new impetus from LB Merton, triggered by the problems faced by the Merton Priory Trust. The trust has lodged its own grant application for Project Planning funds. This was withdrawn, when it was acknowledged that the proposed business plan, which assumed significant visitor numbers, paying £.50p entry, was not sustainable. They approached Merton to investigate the possibility of revenue funding into the future. At the same time, Merton was aware of other project planning bids both actual and in the pipeline, and realised the possibility that a plethora of such bids from one borough, all hanging round the heritage of the Wandle Valley in its various aspects, could lead to expensive competition for funds, or, worse, all bids being dismissed because this would signify insufficient local research.
Andrew Judge, as Leader of the Council, has taken the initiative, and there have now been 2 meetings.
From the beginning it became clear that the 3 Wimbledon centres (Wimbledon Society, Windmill, and Tennis Museum) were not looking for Lottery funding.
This left ourselves, Renue, and Priory Trust. By the time of the second meeting we had been joined by Groundwork, who were also proposing a project planning bid. At the second meeting, it was clear that there was indeed synergy to be exploited. Both Groundwork and Renue had a paid staff, but were aware of the added value that their projects would gain by association with a true heritage project. Both ourselves and Priory Trust had great capital projects, but no way to prove the existence or sustainability of sufficient revenue funding to ensure the long term survival of those projects.
All agreed with our point - however worthwhile a project, its success with lottery funding hangs on compliance with the HLF rules. Whoever makes the application must speak the HLF's language, and be familiar with its criteria.
Co-ordination and co-operation becomes the name of the game. Merton and Groundwork are talking about the funding of a secretarial backup, and the viability of an officer to co-ordinate the groups. As soon as practical both Renue and Priory Trust must make renewed applications, because of time limits in the s 106 Agreement (a problem we don't face).
We will be looking to support both bids, in the context of a parallel single bid to develop an overview project plan which puts our individual bids into the kind of context where each complements the others, and uses the Wandle Valley's heritage in community, industrial and renewable resource terms as the framework within which they all have a mutually complementary, rather than competitive, place.
HLF have plenty of money - that has not been the problem. All four bids could be entertained at the same time. What the HLF hate is a perception of amateurism. What they fear is a loss of a resource into which they have pumped lottery money, and the public approbrium which follows. They equate the two.
A professional approach, professionally managed, could unlock the purse strings for us all.