A public meeting was held to decide the fate of the Charity. The meeting was well attended with passionate address from both sides, but it was clear that a different approach would be required if the dream were to continue. Crux of the debate involved around financial stability and Charity organisation.
An overwhelming vote decided that the project should be given a further chance to succeed. Action was to be taken to address the underlying problems resulting in the following resolutions. Buildings and facilities should be open to groups outside the Mirfield area to increase revenue. A management committee, representative of the local community, should be elected to administer the Charity. Efforts should be made over the longer term to secure funding for refurbishment and facilities.
A volunteer management committee was duly elected.
With gifts of materials and paint from local traders and assistance from the newly formed “Friends of Gearstones”, the premises were given a much needed facelift. Mirfield Education Charity advanced a further grant for the installation of an LPG central heating system. The previous electric storage heater system proving inadequate for the old building which still suffered from severe damp and black mould. A balanced flue system was also installed to eradicate damp problems.
An application was made to the Board of Charity Commissioners to amend the constitution thereby enabling the charity to be available to a wider public. It was accepted and management set about increasing use of the building.
Following two years of consolidation, management produced a comprehensive report, “Consultative Documents – 5 to 10 year Corporate Plan”, including some 53 recommendations embracing refurbishment, facilities and development.
By now the financial position had improved considerably with surplus revenue now available over running costs. This enabled budgets to be set at the beginning of each year allowing a structured programme of refurbishment and development.
It was decided to repair and refurbish the attached cottage with a view of using the premises, on a self catering basis, for voluntary working parties, warden support to visiting Lodge groups, and for letting to families or small groups to further increase income.
Work on the cottage continued, completed and brought into use towards the end of the year. Decorated and furbished in traditional Dales style, 90% of the work was carried out by volunteer tradesman, 10% by local contractors which helped to keep down the costs of the project.
The old annex, situated at ground level on the side of the Lodge building, was completely gutted converted and furbished to create a ladies and gents ablution unit serving the Lodge. The Four existing showers on the upper floor were repaired with modern units and both rooms were completely refurbished and tiled. Once more work was carried out with a combination of local contractors.
Structural faults on the west gable end were repaired in conjunction with lowering part of the cellar floor. Yet again Mirfield Educational Charity gave a grant towards these costs the remainder coming from Gearstones revenue.
Progress in the development of the cellar outdoor activity area continued with the construction of a drying room. Both the large and small lounges were redecorated and additional fire extinguishers were purchased to complete the provision of fire fighting equipment throughout the buildings. Structural faults in the dwarf walls to the “Red Area” were repaired and the whole timber floor replaced, this area having previously been used as an “outdoor wet area” until the renovation of the cellar area.
Further structural faults were rectified in the first floor corridor. The opportunity was taken to refurbish the corridor. This work was completely “in-house” at material costs only.
For some considerable time the subject of water supply had been moving up the “priority works” list with interruptions to supply causing increasing problems along with adverse comments on quality. It was decided that serious consideration should be given to the installation of an independent borehole supply within the Lodge grounds. It was decided to proceed with the installation through the Environment Agency.
Refurbishments continued with a view of reducing expenditure and carry funds over to next year to meet borehole installation costs. Some structural repairs were carried out to the east gable end, several windows were replaces as a matter of urgency and a collapsed drainage pipe was replaced. The small games room was decorated; Gayle bedroom was completely refurbished including new ceiling, new windows and rewiring.
Having decided that this year the “water borehole” would take priority our human resources were directed mainly to fundraising, refurbishments being limited to redecoration of some rooms, repairs and maintenance. Our drive on finances proved to be successful, both bookings and fundraising reached a record highs.
The borehole and filtration plant were completed and brought into use in November bringing an abundant supply of crystal clear water. Unfortunately the depth required to reach an adequate supply terminated at 500ft, double the depth of 250ft estimated by the Environment Agency taken from their geological database. This resulted in a final costs overspend, some of the costs having to be carried over to 1999.
For the previous three years huge efforts had been made to secure major funding from National lottery funds and other funding sources to finance the development of the Charity and extensive refurbishment of buildings, without success. One of those projects was to demolish the dilapidated garages and adjoining sty and rebuilding it to create a much needed Educational and Activity/Games room. Mirfield Educational Charity decided to increase their already huge investment in Gearstones and grant the monies to complete the works. In December the facility was brought into use for the groups staying over the Christmas and New Year periods. Comments suggest the effort was much appreciated and a huge success. The building was constructed in stone with a slate roof with an interior ambience in the traditional Dales style.
During building work we took the opportunity to carry out some urgent refurbishments aligned to our programme of development. Safety walls were constructed outside the main entrances and ramps put in to facilitate wheelchair access. Six ground floor windows were replaced, a new top water drainage system was installed serving the whole premises, along with a new sewer drainage system serving the cottage in the rear grounds.