Frequently Asked Questions
Since our purchase of The George in March 2011, a number of questions have been raised concerning our motives for the purchase and our plans for the building. Whilst we have attempted to provide factual responses to these questions, when presented with an appropriate opportunity, regrettably misinformation and rumour continues to abound in our community. This list of responses to FAQs is by no means exhaustive and is not presented in any order of importance, however, it is hoped that this will assist in accurately clarifying our position and will provide the necessary reassurances that interested parties are seeking.
How long will the period of refurbishment take?
We have planned a tight Schedule of Works spanning 34 weeks. As anyone who has worked on a project of this complexity will tell you, that is the optimistic view based on the completely smooth running of the scope of work with all contractors and materials being available on schedule. Our desire is to have the building back into full use as soon as is practical (within 9 to 12 months, if possible), but we’ve a long way to go and there is much to do!
Is the aim to complete ALL the work before facilities are fully operational?
Put simply – yes. When we open our doors, we will be able to make full and immediate use of the Function Room, Meetings Rooms and cloakrooms on the first floor – the Café, the office and the cloakrooms on the ground floor.
We are not planning to transform the entire building in this first phase as this would simply add to the complexity of the work, the permissions required, the timescales and not least of all, the finances required. A scaled down Café will be created in the spaces either side of the front door, leaving us with room to expand as the business develops and as we establish the requirements based on our experience of actually running the Café.
Do we have all the funds needed to complete the project?
Not yet – we are thankful that we have sufficient funds to get the project well underway, probably taking us towards Christmas without any additional funding. Meanwhile, we trust God for his perfect provision – his timing has been quite simply awesome and he is totally in control of this exciting project.
The Grant Funding team has already submitted a number of applications for funding and hopefully, we’ll have responses to these applications in the near future. Meanwhile, there are many more applications in the pipeline.
Who is going to do the work?
At the start of the planning process we made a commitment to use ‘local trades’ and ‘local suppliers’ whenever possible and where ‘best value’ was offered – this ethos has been upheld during the procurement process which means that in many cases, the appointed contractors (eg. ground worker, lime plasterers, central heating engineers, security systems etc.) are local, recommended and highly experienced. Additionally, we are delighted to be able to take up offers of help from professional trades people and volunteers from within the fellowship.
What can we expect for the future of The George now that it is in private ownership?
What’s different about this Planning Application from the previous one?
We seek to restore the existing premises to the highest levels of finish and bring it back into regular use. Our aim is to restore, renovate and update the main areas of this important Grade II listed building and bring it back into use as soon as is practical. The proposals will greatly enhance both the appearance and fabric of the building, which has been the subject of unsympathetic alterations in the past. The Planning Application is in relation to the refurbishment of the main part of the building and the associated Change of Use
Having withdrawn your previous application, why are you making this application at this time?
The application is the result of a lengthy period of consultation with our team of Conservation Architects, the planners at SSDC, the Conservation Officer and a number of other key specialists. Our commitment has always been to take the necessary time to develop the proposals that best serve the heritage of the building, our immediate needs and the growing needs of our community in Martock.
Why has the building been left unused since coming into the ownership of MCF?
With the decline of the pub trade and a serious lack of investment by a succession of owners over a considerable period of time, this Grade II listed building had been allowed to deteriorate to such an extent that an extensive programme of refurbishment is now needed and a high level of financial investment made to ensure that the integrity of the building is retained, whilst bringing the fabric of the building to an acceptable standard that meets the requirements of both planners and conservationists
Why are you planning to destroy the historic character of the building?
Breathing new life into an old building is always a challenge, and one which we take very seriously. As custodians of this important building, we are acutely aware of our ‘duty of care’ in owning a Grade II listed building. Much of the character of the building has been the subject of unsympathetic alterations in the past and which paid little, or no regard, for the Listed Building status. MCF has every intention of maintaining the integrity of the building so that it will continue to enhance the important conservation area of Church Street.
The repairs already undertaken – namely, the repairs to the roof, chimney stacks and gutters; repointing of external walls; and the refurbishment of sash windows – are a clear indication of our commitment to enhancing this much neglected building. We continue to work closely with the Conservation Officer and Conservation Architect to ensure that appropriate restoration is carried out. Much of the character of the building has been the subject of unsympathetic alterations in the past.
The completion of the proposed schedule of works will ensure, that this important building not only makes a positive contribution to the street scene, the building is also in great structural and aesthetic shape, ‘fit for purpose’ in the 21st century and beyond, but is also retained for regular use.
Why does Martock need another Café?
Current market trends have seen a huge growth in the demand for quality coffee, with an increasing number of new operations opening in our towns and cities. In the same period, statistics reveal the closure of an increasing number of licensed premises. Whilst economists insist that ‘competition is healthy’, in opening The George as a Café, we aim to serve the changing needs of our community rather than prosper at the expense of the competition. For example, the Coffee Pot is not open in the afternoons during the week or at all on a Saturday. Our hours of opening will expand what is currently on offer within the centre of the village, so meeting the demands of our community
Why do we need another church in Martock?
The purchase of The George will simply provide us with much-needed additional space to better serve the growing needs of our community. Our Planning Application is about bringing the building into that planned use and is not about ‘another church’. It is our intention to retain our current building and to use the two buildings in parallel – utilising the flexible spaces each building provides for the most appropriate use at any time
Is there any truth in the rumour that MCF intends to purchase the Youth Centre?
Whilst we have a good working relationship with the Youth Centre, we are unaware that this building is on the open market at this time. Why we would wish to take on another listed building in need of considerable investment and refurbishment is a suggestion beyond our comprehension
What do you say to other rumours that have suggested you tried to buy the land at the rear of your existing building, currently under ownership of the Co-op?
A preliminary approach was made to Head Office some time ago when we were looking at options for extending our premises. This was before we purchased The George and was not deemed a viable option in meeting our changing needs
Why did MCF buy The George as a ‘going concern’ and then close it down?
When Punch Taverns (the vendor) brought the property to market at the end of November 2010, the pub was not trading and had only done so for brief periods during the proceeding couple of years. Having stood empty and unheated for some time, the property was subject to a burst pipe and some ground floor flooding. Negotiations for the purchase of the property were underway and as an interested party, Punch Taverns informed us that a temporary caretaker/manager would be installed to ensure that a similar scenario was not repeated and to provide some levels of security for the property until such time as the building was sold with vacant possession. At no time was there ever any discussion about MCF ‘buying the business’ and this was reflected in the asking purchase price for the building. It is regrettable that any staff working in The George during this temporary period of trading were not informed of the ‘temporary’ nature of their employment or indeed, the requirement of ‘vacant possession’ ahead of the completion of the sale – the new owners of the property cannot be held responsible for a lack of open communication between Punch Taverns, the temporary caretaker/manager and his staff
Why were MCF so secretive about buying The George?
When Punch Taverns brought the property to open market via their agent, King Sturge, we issued an expression of interest in the property – there was at least one other interested party at that stage. With the closure and development of The Railway and four fully operational Public Houses within walking distance of The George, it is no wonder that Punch Taverns felt the time was right to off-load a number of unprofitable establishments including The George.
And given the difficult trading market, there was no preconception on the part of the vendor that the property would once again operate a Public House. We made clear our intentions for the property from the outset and prior to our purchase, an informal meeting was held with representatives of the SSDC planning department to explore the feasibility of a change of use and associated developments.
Shortly before completing on the sale of the property, we met with representatives of the Parish Council and members of the ‘save the George’ group. Further meetings were also held once The George had formally passed into our private ownership. There was much talk about ‘getting the pub back’ but little interest shown in our actual plans for developing The George into a thriving, community facility.
How can we find out more about your plans for The George?
Details of our planning application are available on the SSDC website (ref: 1302638FUL)
Martock Christian Fellowship Registered Charity No 1168712