Community use hopes for old Keynsham fire station site

old stationKeynsham Town Council has bid to purchase the old fire station on Temple Street and wants to see it used for community activity.

The station closed last year when the new one opened at Hicks Gate and Avon Fire & Rescue put the site on the open market in February.

The agents handling the sale reported a lot of interest being shown from a range of prospective buyers. The deadline for bids in excess of £325,000 was Friday 28th April and we understand the vendor is keen to move forward quickly with the sale.

The town council decided to table an offer on the back of feedback it has been receiving through the emerging Neighbourhood Development Plan where residents have for the last nine months been formulating their own ideas on how Keynsham should develop in the future. Suggestions from the public have included a multi-purpose space for events and markets, a visitor centre, a heritage centre or museum, meeting rooms and an enterprise hub/hot desk facility for start-ups and community organisations.

Town Clerk Dr Cheryl Scott said today: ”When the fire station was put on the open market and given its position between two community facilities – the library and the leisure centre – there were renewed public calls that it should be developed as a community facility rather than be acquired for commercial or residential development. The town council has paid due attention to the opinions of the residents and responded accordingly.”

If successful the council would fund the purchase through a low interest loan which has already been agreed in principle with the Public Works Loan Board. It already has the sufficient to purchase the site if the bid is accepted and assurance from the board that the overall development cost would be available subject to subsequent public consultation over the ultimate use of the facility and part-funding of repayments through an increase on the Council Tax precept.

Dr Scott said: “Obviously the town council has not committed itself to any expenditure at present –but has put itself in a position that, should it’s offer prove attractive to the vendors, then it would be in a position to proceed financially if that is what Keynsham wants.”

A community facility in Keynsham has been a story dating back to the 1990s when Wansdyke District Council set aside £200,000 for the project. When B&NES Council was formed in 1997 to replace Wansdyke, the money was transferred for safe keeping and there were initially plans to include a community centre as part of the mixed-use development of St John’s Court for the Tesco supermarket.

It was subsequently agreed with the developer that flats would be built on the site instead and the money was to be spent on community based projects instead. In 2013 a number of voluntary organisations received payments from the funds following a public bidding process.