PCF had to close what had been a successful local initiative, the Pepys Recycling Project, in November 2009; owing to the lack of continuing funding for its Collection and Managing Staff, and Operations. It had been supported with funds from CRED (Community Recycling Economic Development), to set up, the Esmee Fairbairn Foundation Trust; and Hyde Housing - as a Community Enterprise. The Project was in operation for 3 to 4 Years. Initially collecting both 'dry recyclables' and 'food waste' from the predominantly 'flatted' properties on the Pepys estate (including Hyde Housing Association and the newly privatised Aragon Tower).
The food recycling was undertaken in one of the warehouses on Victoria Wharf, with the installation of a "Big Hanna" machine, purchased and imported from Sweden by PCF; together with a smaller "Rocket" machine - later donated to PCF by Lewisham Council. Where the operation was specially installed in order to meet food hygene certification and regulations - DEFRA. The latter including regular sampling of the process, for laboratory analysis.
Quote from Esmee Fairburn Report - "When the recyling project first began around 900 households signed up for it out of a catchment area of around 1700 households. This fell away significantly when the dry recycling collections had to stop due to lack of resources - but there was still a core group of 200 households being collected from. So there was a clear interest by residents being demonstrated to be actively involved in improving their environment. The potential for generating a high level of income locally, to cover all the costs of meeting the interests of the residents, was never there. The Project would have to have expanded to move towards achieving that.
On the other hand, what value do you place on improving the quality of people's lives, improving their environment, and nuturing the active interest of local people in their environment? The Project was 'educating' many households. Who knows what could have been built on that."
The "Big Hanna" has been returned to the supplier, and is being prepared for use elsewhere.
The "Rocket" is held in storage, by PCF, and is available for purchase, and then re-use - contact at the address given above.
PCF has always held a belief that to be sustainable as an organisation, into the long term that it would need to acquire and build up its own assets/investments. Yet, PCF had no Capital Funding, from which to do this. A local small Office block - Parker House - had been indentified as a possible close by property asset; to then be a benefit to the local community if it were owned/managed by PCF.
In 2008, a study by the Big Lottery emerged called the "Quirk Report". This identified an Asset Transfer funding base of some £30m across the whole country, for this purpose - the Community Assets Fund (CAF). It would involve the transfer of a Council owned property, to a community group, who would then acquire and manage the asset in to the long term. Therefore a partnership agreement between the two parties was a necessary condition of bidding for the CAF.
Lewisham Council, Community Sector, and PCF worked together to put a bid for close to £1m for the refurbishment of Parker House. The bid was successful. All of the close to one million pound of funding was then earmarked for Works to be spent on bringing Parker House up to date in terms of the building structure and modernising all the facilities. When this Work was completed the Council would then lease the property to PCF for 50 Years, at a peppercorn Rent. All the preparation needed for this to take place was either completed, or put in place.
In the meantime, the Council engaged a Consultant whose role was to introduce and manage the community collaboration needed to bring several local organisations to work together.
In practice, none of these other local organisations were partners to the Agreement for the CAF bid monies. Yet, through a structure of a newly formed Project Advisory Board; they obtained some influence.
Parker House, owned by the Council, was now in a very poor state of maintenance; having been first built in the 1960's. The Council had let, with Tenancy Agreements, a part of the space in the premises to two organisations - Lewisham Refugee Network and the Lewisham Voluntary Training Network. Then, another two more newly formed Groups, also had 'tenacies at will' - the Deptford Family Project and the African Development Network.
Other, more established local organisations, were also invited to this new Project Board - Co-opepys, Pepys Resource Centre, 2000 Community Action Centre, the Somali Education Developmnet Centre.
The Project Board proved to be the wrong structure to guide this undertaking. The letter, reproduced below, expresses the concerns of the PCF Board, who are all local residents.
19th August 2009
Re: Parker House Community Asset Transfer – Big Lottery, Community Assets Fund
Dear Barry Quirke, Chief Executive Lewisham Council
I am taking this opportunity to write to you, because you wrote the Quirke Review about Community Asset transfers. I am sure that you will have taken a keen interest in the proposal to transfer Parker House to Pepys Community Forum in partnership with Lewisham Council.
The Council, together with ourselves have been discussing the idea of an asset transfer for many years. The opportunity of the Community Asset Fund (CAF) meant that we worked well together as partners, and progress was made with a successful bid to the BLF for close to £1m, for the refurbishment of the property and then the transfer to PCF on a 50 Year Lease.
Yet, regrettably, PCF has more recently found itself in the unenviable position of being the community partner to the Council whilst having little or no influence over what has happened, namely the loss of the planned for asset transfer because of the potential loss of the Lottery funding. This has happened because even though the two partners, the Council and ourselves, have worked well together, another group of people have been given a kind of power of veto over the process by the Council, namely the existing Parker House tenants. Two of the occupying tenants have full tenancies, and two only have tenancies at will. To effect a remedy to recover the situation Martin Howie, Director of Voluntary Action Lewisham, offered to become involved and began a late mediation process; resulting in a newly drafted compromise proposal that we agreed to; and that the Council could support too.
During this time, PCF has had to hold fast to its beliefs in its right to be independent and be resident-led, part of its core ethos, in the face of some hostility. It has had to hold fast to its view that if it was going to be given the responsibility for running Parker House, it couldn’t then be placed in a minority position on any Board responsible for that asset.
Regrettably PCF has found itself in the position of having its back to the wall, and still does. It has found itself party to a partnership agreement with the Council, where its rights as a partner seem to have ultimately counted for nothing, and where the Council as the other main partner has only made decisions based on trying to reach a consensus involving the tenants of Parker House and others, who were not, themselves, a party to the agreement.
The loss of Parker House (PH) will considerably affect both the wider community and PCF.
What will be lost is :
£1 million of Lottery Funding – to refurbish PH to a modern standard
Approximately £150k of net income from renting PH over a 5 year period
Newly refurbished space for CVS organisations, not just existing tenants
New and much needed business start-up space
The potential for some new employment with commercial organisations based at PH, occupying 60% of space at commercially rented rates
Funding for a new Asset Development Post (grant-funded by the Deptford Challenge Trust and match-funded by the Adventure Capital Fund)
PCF’s own future is now seriously jeopardised by the loss of the asset transfer of Parker House :
3 p/t jobs at PCF
2 social enterprises - using donated warehouse space managed by PCF
1 business start-up - using rented warehouse space managed by PCF
The facilitation of 2 environmental projects by PCF working with an external agency and a University
Volunteering opportunities at PCF
PCF’s involvement with a number of LSP Boards
PCFs involvement with the Healthy Communities Collaborative project covering Evelyn & New Cross wards
PCF’s involvement with 2 other CVS organisations and Lewisham Hospital in a new Employment Consortium being funded by the WNF
Additionally 2 established projects – REETA (refugee employment) and Evelyn Community Garden - will need to be transferred to other organisations.
The perceived failure of PCFs partnership agreement with Lewisham will of necessity lead to discussions about the difficulties of a level playing field in partnerships between the Council and small CVS organisations. What does the Stronger Communities Partnership Board really stand for if the Council, with all its power and resources, is able to make decisions which have a detrimental affect on much smaller partners, without those partners being able to hold the Council to account or consuming a disproportionate amount of resource trying to ?
The only way that I think anything can be salvaged from this is if you step in yourself. Perhaps you would be willing initially to have a private conversation with the Director of VAL, Martin Howie, because he has been trying to ‘mediate’ a positive outcome for the asset transfer process.
Apart from the fact that PCFs own future now hangs in the balance, there is a real risk that serious questions will be asked of Lewisham’s practical understanding of supporting strategic partnerships with CVS organisations.
PCF still wants to see some kind of positive outcome from all this, not least because it has been pursuing the principle of asset transfers within Lewisham since 2000.
So I would welcome any positive contributions or interventions that you could consider.
PCF has not received a direct reply to the above letter.
The Big Lottery Fund responded to PCF's approach for a face to face Meeting, together with Officers of Lewisham Council.
However, PCF's overtures to go ahead with the CAF bid, and asset transfer proved to be of no avail. As the political will to do so seemed not to be present.
The Big Lottery Fund had to withdraw the CAF bid Offer.
PCF had also gained a Grant from the Adventure Capital Fund - of £10K - to faciliate a business plan to be based on the income development opportunities of the Parker House Project.
PCF has recently returned the unspent part of this funding - £7.5K - back to the ACF.
Lewisham Community Sector has withdrawn its Grant to PCF - worth over £40K a Year to Core Activities - for the period 2006 to March 2010.
PCF's final programme of SRB funded work for the two years - 2004/06 - comprised the delivery of a variety of community based projects through a number of different organisations (listed below).
PCF runs its own office facilities, providing community development,and other over-arching support in its local community - as an umbrella organisation. PCF is now developing other independent and grant sources of funding to meet its long term aspirations for the community it serves.
PCF has links with other organisations such as Voluntary Action Lewisham (VAL) and Lewisham Strategic Partnership ( LSP ).
Principal organisations that were supported during the SRB funded Years - 2000/2006
SELEDA - the Deptford and New Cross Credit Union, a time bank scheme, a local allotment project, a food co-op, and also a partner in the community cafe and the five-a-day healthy diet.
LSBGI - a small business and business start-up advisory service for local businesses. It is also working with PCF to develop a local Economic Development Agency for Deptford.
Riverside Youth Club delivers a variety of homework clubs, arts based groups, and a holiday scheme.
Splash is a water sports young people's club based at Surrey Docks Water Sports Centre, offering canoeing and sailing training at the weekend.
Charlotte Turner Supplementary School - a Saturday School for young people based at the Charlotte turner Primary School. It offers additional curriculum support to all young people in the area, and specialises in language support for Arabic speakers.
CACAO - a service to young people in media and photography, producing a tri-annual magazine - .comfusion - produced by young people themselves.
MANGO and SPICE - a local start-up business in Childcare and holiday play schemes.
Emmanuel Before and After School provides childcare for working parents.
2000 Community Action Centre - a variety of activities for the local community.
Pepys Resource Centre - IT and Training opportunities, a Development Worker is being supported.
SEDEC - a Womens's Support project aimed at local Somali women and their families.