Background

The Beckery Island Regeneration Trust (BIRT) was founded to promote regeneration of Glastonbury’s economic base through restoration of its architectural heritage.  The Trust’s strategy to achieve this aim is based on the preservation of traditional work space for community benefit.

Glastonbury has been an unemployment black spot since the closure of the Morland’s and Bailey’s tanneries and factories in the 1980s.  Since that time, many schemes have been proposed for the use of the factory site, the greatest derelict industrial site in the county, but none has come to fruition.  In the past few years the brownfield site has benefited from major infrastructure development by the South West Regional Development Agency.  They have recently made the decision to withdraw from the site, leaving behind a site ready for development but with few concrete plans.

By the millennium Glastonbury’s derelict industrial site had become the worst eyesore in Somerset and no realistic solution for its regeneration had been proposed.  In the summer of 2000 Glastonbury Town Council began to take a more vigorous interest in the problem.  Their initial action was to invite anyone from the town to attend the first meeting of the Morland Committee in the Town Hall to discuss the best approach to the regeneration of the site.  By the second meeting, the Committee had formulated four basic guiding principals for the development of the Morland site:

  • Employment: Before the factory closed it employed some 2000 people. The aim should be to provide at least 1000 jobs of all different types.
  • Best Practice: The site should be a flagship for the county, demonstrating best practice in design and activity
  • Sustainability: Projects and businesses should be self supporting and non-polluting. Local businesses, suppliers and employees should take priority. Energy should be produced on site using renewable sources. Contamination should be dealt with on site.
  • Integration: Activities on the site should compliment, not conflict with, activities in the town or surrounding area. The site should tie in with and enhance the public transport links already in operation.

Members of the Morland’s Committee served on a variety of SWRDA focus groups, meeting once a month to discuss various aspects of the new development.  Other members successfully petitioned English Heritage to list the Victorian Bailey’s factories, in the process gaining the active support of the Prince’s Trust for Regeneration Through Heritage.  Under their guidance, the Beckery Island Regeneration Trust (BIRT) was formed in 2005 as a not-for-profit company with a charitable branch.

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