As soon as Friends of the Royal Oak was formally constituted (February 2020), the building was registered as an Asset of Community Value with Staffordshire Moorlands District Council (confirmed April 2020). Covid-19 impacted heavily on the group’s initial progress when lockdown came into force. Online meetings zia Zoom, enabled the group to continue meeting during this period.
Social media has been used to publicise progress of the project and engage with interested parties. Local press releases have also been used, to update the public about the group’s activities.
The group applied to the Architectural Heritage Fund (AHF) for a Project Viability grant in October 2020, on the basis that the project was community based. This application included letters of support from Cheadle Town Council and local M.P. Sir William Cash.
An online survey was released in March 2021, to gather public feedback on initial proposals. There was a total of 660 responses. The results supported the group’s general ideas, of how the building would be commercially viable and support was also demonstrated for the community elements.
Through the Heritage Alliance’s ReBuilding Heritage scheme, the group received some free one-to-one sessions (May to July 2021). These focused on fund raising and business development.
The group also engaged with and joined Support Staffordshire (May 2021). Some training/advice sessions have also taken place with them related to governance, which have been funded through the Project Viability Grant.
As a result of these sessions, it was agreed that a Community Benefit Society was the incorporation model preferred by the group.
Limited face-to-face engagement took place once Covid limitations subsided, at a town event organised by Team Cheadle (High Street Musical - July 2021) where approx. 30 people showed interest in the group’s proposals. More face-to-face consultation is planned for 2022.
The required match funding financial support for the AHF grant, has been obtained from Cheadle Town Council and the public. The Town Council contributed £500 around the time of the AHF application, the rest was raised through a successful crowd funding campaign (February 2022).
The architect firm of Wood Goldstraw Yorath approached the group about working on the project and have since have carried out an initial assessment of the building. Plans based on the group’s ideas have also been produced. Costs based on these plans are being prepared for the Project Viability Study (April 2022). This work will also be funded through the AHF grant.