A call to arms has been made to buy Budleigh Salterton fire station for community use in a bid to combat loneliness and isolation.
The town is being asked to dig deep and donate so there is enough in a fund to bid for the fire station when it goes to auction, with a guide price of £125,000, on Thursday, September 10.
The plan is to turn the former fire station into a community workshop where people can share and learn new skills, and make friends.
The rally cry for help has been made by Budleigh Community Workshop Trust (BCWT), who wants to permanently secure the building as an asset for the town, by putting it in trust.
BCWT has just under six weeks to raise the shortfall before online bidding begins.
The BCWT group is keen to recruit a volunteer who can set up and manage an online crowdfund page for donations.
Bill McDermott, BCWT chairman, said the community workshop would be in an addition to the Budleigh Hub, in bringing people together.
He said the project would be run on similar lines to the Men’s Shed, and a repair shop, where young adults and older residents could mix and share skills.
The workshop would offer easy-to-learn wood-based interests, such as carving and joinery, plus pottery or other crafts taught by volunteers willing to share their knowledge.
And there would be space for people to chat and socialise with a cuppa.
Mr McDermott said the building would be a community asset but managed, so people could use it.
He said: “Our challenge mainly is now to raise money. We are quite a bit short of our target.
“What we want to do, is to secure it for the community and put it in trust so it belongs to Budleigh for the future.
“If we get it, there’s no reason why it can’t go on for a very long time and people can take over, and run it for the community.”
He added: “It can be for anybody. For the bereaved, the lonely who are new to the area, people who are feeling isolated and want to be involved in the community. They can come along.
“It’s an opportunity to socialise, get together, swap stories, be involved, be creative and be practical.”
A group of volunteers local to Budleigh has worked for two-and-a-half years on plans for a town workshop and community space open for all.
The group said the Station Road spot of the former fire station was ‘ideally suited’ as a location for the project.
It anticipates there will be ‘plenty of interest’ from potential buyers, with other ideas for the central location.
BWCT is partnering with the Budleigh Health and Wellbeing Hub, the town’s GP practice and other local charities, with the shared aim of boosting opportunities for improving the health and wellbeing of the community.
The group said ‘substantial funds’ have already been raised by the trustees towards the purchase of the building.
If BCWT is successful in its bid, the building would be held in trust as an asset for the Budleigh Salterton community.
Mr McDermott said: “As we are all aware, practical and creative activities are essential for the well-being of individuals and the community and a workshop providing a wide range of opportunities will enhance skills, confidence and inclusion and will prove a valuable addition to the local area.
“Our aspiration is to make the community workshop socially inclusive and diverse, focussing wherever the need is, so that young adults and older generations can develop skills and enjoy the social and creative opportunities the workshop will provide.”
The two-storey fire base, in Station Road, was permanently closed at the start of April 2020, as part of Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service’s cost cutting consultation, Safer Together.
The former fire station, which served the town for around 100 years before it closed three months ago, will be sold at a live stream, online, public auction on Thursday, September 10.
Described by the auction house as ‘situated in the heart of the sought-after seaside town’, the fire station – lot number one – is being sold as a freehold property with the potential for conversion.
Agents, Countrywide Property Auctions, handling the sale, describe the site as ‘an interesting, sizeable and versatile two-storey building, comprising of the former fire station and additional forecourt parking, situated in the heart of the ever-popular seaside town of Budleigh Salterton’.
To donate, or volunteer with crowdfunding, or help BCWT in any other way, contact Bill McDermott by emailing email@example.com
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