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Norwich group says it wants to take over city’s Open building

PUBLISHED: 11:51 01 May 2020 | UPDATED: 13:57 01 May 2020

ClearCompany CIC volunteer directors, from left, Ana Almeida, Steve Wiseman and Julie Briggs. Picture: ClearCompany CIC

ClearCompany CIC volunteer directors, from left, Ana Almeida, Steve Wiseman and Julie Briggs. Picture: ClearCompany CIC

Archant

A social enterprise working in collaboration with Norfolk chefs and artists has declared its desire to take over the Norwich building formerly inhabited by charity OPEN.

Social enterprise ClearCompany CIC wants to take over the space formerly occupied by the Open Youth Trust in Bank Plain, Norwich. Picture: ArchantSocial enterprise ClearCompany CIC wants to take over the space formerly occupied by the Open Youth Trust in Bank Plain, Norwich. Picture: Archant

ClearCompany CIC has spent the last two years looking for a site to base a new street food park enterprise and is hoping their search might be over after the OPEN Youth Trust closed for the final time on Thursday following an unsuccessful fight to secure funding.

The group, formed in 2017, believes the Bank Plain site would be easily accessible for residents, while also providing ample space and a chance to boost post-lockdown recovery prospects for its legion of independent traders.

Founder and director Julie Briggs believes ClearCompany can also revive some of the vital youth services that OPEN had previously provided.

She said: “We have worked previously with OPEN and we were really sad to see it close. If we can get all the services in there under one roof, we could resurrect some of that youth provision that has been lost, alongside family support.

The OPEN Youth Trust had occupied the building since 2009, but closed for the final time on Thursday after going into liquidation. Picture: ArchantThe OPEN Youth Trust had occupied the building since 2009, but closed for the final time on Thursday after going into liquidation. Picture: Archant

“That is a whopping great building, so central, so you could have families come in there, the parents could get support while the youth are involved in activities. We have all these groups wanting to collaborate and work together – this is a perfect setting and we can share responsibility for the building and generate income streams to pay for it.

“It’s about collaborating with all our different groups to provide that support and family care, but also a community space where people can come along, socialise and support local businesses.”

This week the community interest company launched its Clearly Norfolk online shop, offering a free platform for businesses to trade.

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Once a permanent base has been found, the idea is that these mobile caterers, musicians and artists can move in and use the space in return for a contribution towards community projects.

After losing out in a tendering process for a property in Colegate and declining an offer from Castle Mall because “it was such a high rental”, ClearCompany have already approached landlords the Lind Trust and hope to be able to secure the building as soon as possible so independent food traders can get to work even during lockdown.

Mrs Briggs said: “The space offers a kitchen that we can operate as a ‘dark kitchen’. Pop-up chefs come together in one space and they cook to order for delivery.

“People don’t visit the space, so while we’re in lockdown that kitchen could be a space where our chefs, who have had their whole summer trade wiped out, all socially distanced, all with their hygiene certification and all with their loyal customers, they could be cooking right now from that kitchen with a pool of delivery drivers who have contacted us.

“We can have one number where people could phone in, order their food and out it goes. We could hit the ground running now in that space.”

She also expressed the group’s desire to enable other tenants and businesses that currently operate out of the building to stay there and work alongside them.

“I think Future Radio was based there and they’re now looking for a new home – they could remain there and collaborate with us. We also have people like Clive Lewis, he could continue to be based there as well.

“It gives people the opportunity to remain and be part of this community group. It feels like there are a whole load of people waiting, looking for this space. We could come together and very easily hit the ground running.”

While ClearCompany is a non-profit organisation, the group has stressed its desire to be financially self-sustaining in order to secure its long-term future and ensure services can continue to be offered to those who need them.


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