Introduction

INTRODUCTION

“As the significance of its townscapes and buildings is being revealed, Bridport has a rare opportunity to protect its unique heritage and to promote its special place in industrial history.”
Mike Williams, author ‘Bridport and West Bay’, English Heritage 2006

The Edwards Building, built for net making, now home to St Michael’s Studios and a variety of small businesses.

The Edwards Building, built for net making, now home to St Michael’s Studios and a variety of small businesses.

Welcome!

from all volunteers helping to protect and bring investment into one of Bridport’s greatest assets

St Michael’s Trading Estate

Enterprise St Michael’s  (ESM) is a not for profit, community led initiative intending to secure Bridport’s heritage assets, established local employment and the thriving business community which continues to be threatened by demolition in favour of urban housing in a central commercial area of Bridport.

Through full Local Community engagement, ESM wishes to encourage various forms of investment into the trading estate in order to:-

  • unlock the great potential for economic growth
  • renovate, repair and improve the site
  • create new community facilities
  • expand local enterprise, apprenticeship and cultural tourism

Bridport once led the world in the manufacture of rope, net and sailcloth. St Michael’s was the site where expansion took place from the late 19th Century. St Michael’s has been Bridport’s principal employment site over the last 150 years. Since the demise of traditional industries, St Michael’s has transformed further, with new businesses occupying the space. However, it has retained its rich heritage of unique industrial buildings which represent an important and thriving part of the historic market town. This is why it has been designated as a Conservation Area.

English Heritage has described it as:- “a nationally significant area of historic textiles activity which underpins the raison d’etre of the town.”

Enterprise St Michael’s is a community driven, non profit making scheme, which aims to increase the potential for others to profit and thrive, protect Bridport’s heritage and economy, and provide benefits to the community.

The Business Community

It is currently home to a diverse range of over 85 small businesses employing over 200 people as well as over 25 artist’s studios and community enterprises such as The Trick Factory (a BMX and skater’s indoor arena), The Local Food Centre, and Bridport TLC, a recycling enterprise.

This business community includes a host of manufacturers, designers, artisans, film and media production, sculpture, recycling, upholstery, printing, illustrators, metal works, stone masons, vintage cars, net-making, an auctioneer house, renewable energy development, hairdressers, interior design, dozens of vintage and antique dealers, and various specialist retail outlets; textiles, blinds, tiles, furniture, bathrooms, carpets, electrical appliances, timber, flooring, essential oils, installations etc.

Despite a distinct lack of re-investment to the estate since the 1960’s, St Michael’s has become a highly successful hub for trading and community facilities, which are both well integrated and mutually complimentary. In recent years St Michael’s has become a destination for cultural tourism, particularly through the success of St Michael’s Studios, The Vintage and Antique Quarter, and The Red Brick Cafe. Bridport is at the heart of the Jurassic Coast and as such, is an increasing popular tourist destination. The area has World Heritage status and is attracting national attention as a hub for art, design and culture.

The result is a lively business community, which is integral to Bridport’s character, attraction and needs. The Trading Estate is recognised as an important site for ‘seed-bed’ businesses, those that start small and expand to employ more workers over time, and this is partly dependant on maintaining fair rents and proximity to other businesses and the town centre, as well as the attractive setting for visitors. Clipper Teas and Top Gear are just two examples of businesses that started small-scale here.

Community

Bridport Vintage Market in 2011.

UNDER THREAT

Over the past decade, the business community and historic buildings have come under threat by several proposals to demolish part of the trading estate to make way for urban housing including high rise flats, and also offices for which there is no proven demand. Light Industrial use would be permanently removed in the latest proposal.

A development such as this would not only change the character of this Conservation Area forever, but would also likely cause up to 100 workers to lose premises. With no alternative sites available, this would further diminish local economic activity, employment and visitor numbers. Currently there is significant demand for additional workspaces within Bridport.

Map

The above image illustrates how much area for business would be lost in the proposed housing development (shown in red).

Other adjacent businesses may be forced to close being incompatible with residential use. One block of flats rises to 4 storeys, in the centre of the trading estate.

The Planning Officer’s Report on this proposal states;

“It creates a poor living environment for new residents”
“It would lead to a loss of employment space.”
“It represents an over-development of the available space.”
The demolition of these Heritage Assets “represents a significant erosion of the exceptional history of this part of the town and therefore does amount to substantial harm.”
This harm “would not be mitigated by any public benefits to the scheme as a whole.”

The vast majority of Bridport residents wish to see St Michael’s Trading Estate retained and improved, an ideal site for the town to continue expanding in trade and tourism on which it depends. The last proposal for a housing development here in 2012 received a record number of objections for a planning application. Out of the total responses, 98.7% were in opposition, including Bridport Town Council, which voted unanimously against the proposals.

This is the reason why committed local volunteers have formed an Industrial and Provident Society (IPS), which seeks to attract investment to develop the site in the most appropriate way to be beneficial to existing businesses and the wider community. This is a not for profit organisation although it is able to lease premises to those who can profit, while the key aim is to use income to re-invest in improving the site and increasing both capacity and efficiency.

St Michaels Studios and Antiques Quarter

St Michaels Studios and Antiques Quarter

The Trick Factory

The Trick Factory

Social Enterprise

The advantage Enterprise St Michael’s has over conventional property developers is that the social enterprise is able to access funding from grants, Lottery Funds, charitable trusts and philanthropic sources where there will be considerable community benefits, enhancement to heritage assets and stimulus to the local economy. This makes development of the site far more viable.

Already there are approaching 300 members of Enterprise St Michael’s who have contributed £10 each. Each member has bought a £1 share and donated a £9 annual subscription to help bring the project forward with minimal running costs. These are Community Shareholders. (See ‘Join Us’, if not yet a member)

Anyone is eligible to become a member, whether a local resident, an occasional visitor or someone who simply wishes to support; Community action to protect valuable employment, character, heritage, community and cultural assets.

Each member has a vote and an equal influence on decisions, no matter how much they decide to invest.

The South side of The Edwards Building next to the river Brit. Many small businesses operate at close quarters with their neighbours which creates a ‘cluster effect’ of mutual benefit to all. Photograph courtesy of Chris Hornby.

The South side of The Edwards Building next to the river Brit. Many small businesses operate at close quarters with their neighbours which creates a ‘cluster effect’ of mutual benefit to all. Photograph courtesy of Chris Hornby.

Enterprise St Michael’s believes the only way forward is in sensitive enhancement and expansion of everything that is already positive and successful within the estate. If Bridport’s economy, culture and attraction can be increased, this is the only site in which to do it.

The Present

The Trading Estate is currently in private ownership of Hayward & Co who have encouraged the growth of many diverse small businesses through a fair rent policy.

However in seeking permission to demolish many buildings of local importance in favour of high density housing, the company has taken out advertisements to illustrate how neglected and run down it has become under their ownership. While we recognise the right to make planning applications, this approach runs counter to a number of established policies, particularly in this employment site and Conservation Area.

DC Woodwork

DC Woodwork

Livingston Textiles

Livingston Textiles

Burwoods Electrical Appliances

Burwoods Electrical Appliances

(Photographs by Martha Moopette and ESM)

There is already a great demand locally for small business premises and Enterprise St Michael’s believes even a modest amount of reinvestment would increase economic activity, help to restore Bridport’s heritage assets, create a unique attraction for visitors to Bridport and increase benefits to the community. Enterprise St Michael’s is intending to offer the owners an alternative to an inappropriate and destructive development. We aim to raise capital to purchase the estate, or part of it, on behalf of the local community, and to allow businesses to continue to prosper. So please join the community, and help to ensure a better future which respects the past.

The Red Brick Café (Photograph by Martha Moopette)

The Red Brick Café (Photograph by Martha Moopette)