Celebrations have begun after it was announced today (Thursday, September 3) Budleigh Community Workshop Trust won the sealed-bid sale of the town’s former fire station.
Yesterday (September 2) the town waited with baited breath when the charity group submitted an 11th-hour sealed bid to buy the building, after an expected online auction sale was scrapped at the last minute.
Earlier today it was announced that Budleigh Community Workshop Trust’s (BCWT) bid to buy the plot for the town had been successful.
“It’s been very emotional. There’s been tears along the way…
Bill McDermott, BCWT chairman, said the charity group had to ‘scrape the barrel’ to find last-minute funds to enter its winning offer after the fire service’s U-turn to pull the former fire station from auction in favour of sealed bids.
Mr McDermott said: “It was a close-run competition. We don’t know who was against us, but we have been successful.
“It’s been very emotional. There’s been tears along the way. The team has invested so much.
“We had great support from the local community. They were desperate for it to happen. There are thousands of people in the town, waiting to hear if we have won.”
Mr McDermott said after the contracts have been signed and the sale is complete, refurbishment plans will start and a volunteer drive begin.
The charity group successfully raised £50,000 during August to add to more than £150,000 in donations and pledges to be in ‘a strong position’ to bid for the former Station Road fire station when it was due to be auctioned on September 10.
But when DSFRS suddenly pulled the building from auction at the end of last week, and invited sealed bids to ‘achieve best value’, BCWT was left with days to find sufficient funds.
The charity group said the fire service U-turn was a ‘cruel blow’ because much of the money raised by BCWT and the community was crowdfunded, and would not be released by online operators in time for yesterday’s new cut-off date.
Mr McDermott said the team had to work quickly to make additional funds available to submit a sealed bid to meet yesterday’s 5pm deadline (September 2).
He said: “We had to scrape the barrel to get the money together.”
When the Budleigh Community Workshop Trust launched its campaign to raise funds to buy the two-storey former fire station, the group knew it needed ‘significant money’ to be able to compete at auction.
When the auction was aborted in favour of sealed bids, the charity forged ahead, hoping it could still make an acceptable offer.
Earlier this week, Mr McDermott urged the fire service, freeholders and sellers to look favourably on the community bid, reminding them the aim was to turn the building into a town asset where people could share and learn new skills, and make friends.
The fire service, who in July said auctioning the property ‘enables a transparent, certain and fair route to sale’, pulled the plug on the online sale in favour of sealed bids, saying it had been advised the move would ‘achieve best value’.
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.
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