Leigh Building Preservation Trust has not only restored a historic building, it’s also created a community hub that’s revitalising a disadvantaged area of Greater Manchester.
The UK was once known for its industries – cotton, wool, steel, clothing, and so on. As those industries have closed or moved abroad, many towns have been left decimated. The old mils and factories are now empty and expensive to maintain. Many heritage buildings are at risk of being lost altogether.
Leigh Building Preservation Trust (LBPT) was set up to rescue Spinners Mill. The old mill is Grade II* listed and encompasses two six-storey buildings, with a combined floor space of over 6,000 square metres. At one time, it was one of the largest cotton mills in the UK, but the demise of the cotton industry meant that most of that space fell into disuse.
LBPT took possession of the mill in 2015. Since then, they’ve restored the main building, and given it a whole new purpose. The ground floor, which includes the historic engine room, is now a heritage centre; the second floor is a sports’ centre; the third offers commercial spaces for local businesses; and the fourth is dedicated to arts and culture, including a popular cinema.
Paul Costello, Executive Trustee and Director of LBPT adds, “We’re a charity not a private landlord, so businesses and community groups can be confident that they’re not going to get hit with a huge rent increase. We also offer lower rents for startups so they can afford to get established.”
Most of the work on the mill has been done with the help of grants. However, after new fire regulations forced the mill to close, LBPT had to take on a loan for substantial improvements.
Paul shares, “The loan was costing us around £7,000 a month, which is a hell of a lot of money to find when you’re a charity. So, we refinanced with Charity Bank. They’ve given us a longer repayment period and a three-year interest-only period. Our repayments are around £1,000 a month now, so we can make better use of the income generated from tenants.”
The loan has also allowed the charity to buy a new lift, which means it’ll be able to open the fifth floor to 22 new tenants, most of which will be local organisations providing education, training or digital services.
“The loan has been a godsend. Money had gotten really tight, so this has taken away a lot of the pressure. We’ve now got three years to develop a good strategy, build up reserves and look at increasing our overall revenue streams. The loan process was really easy. I’m used to doing grant applications, so this process felt like a walk in the park!”Paul Costello, Executive Trustee and Director of Leigh Building Preservation Trust
LBPT has brought life back to a historic building and created a thriving community hub, which is already being visited by 1,200 people a week. Paul expects that number to rise even further when the fifth floor is open. Many of the activities are free or low-cost; the cinema offers ‘pay-what-you-feel’ tickets to make it more accessible to people on a low income.
“Image Village is a media and marketing company, and we've proudly called Spinners Mill our home since 2019. The mill provides resources usually associated with larger cities, but at rates that allow businesses like ours to thrive within the local community.”
“LBPT work tirelessly to ensure the continued success of the project and we can never thank them enough for the work they do in securing this amazing project, both for the 65 businesses already here, and for those to come”Lyndsey Nightingale, Co-founder of Image Village
About Charity Bank
Charity Bank is the loans and savings bank owned by and committed to supporting the social sector. Since 2002, we have used our savers’ money to make more than 1,200 loans totalling over £450m to housing, education, social care, community and other social purpose organisations.
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