CAMPAIGNERS were celebrating this week after securing the future of a Victorian complex of workshops with the help of hundreds of small investors.
They have pulled off a deal to buy Portland Works – the first building in the world where stainless steel cutlery was manufactured – so that it can continue to be used by craftspeople, artists and musicians.
It follows a three-year drive, including the launch last year of Sheffield’s first community share issue, to prevent part of the city’s industrial heritage, off Randall Street, near Bramall Lane, being converted into housing.
Derek Morton, who chairs the organising committee, said: “We are absolutely thrilled with the deal. This is a major step forward and will now ensure the future of Portland Works.
“We will restore the building, retain the workshops as commercial enterprises and deliver a programme of heritage and educational activities, alongside offering apprenticeships and training in manufacturing skills.”
At the same time, fundraising will continue, with shares being sold until the end of June.
The deal to give the campaign full ownership of the works will see payment of £260,000 by the end of June as a result of the share issue generating more than £175,000, one of the biggest community buy-outs of its kind in the UK, plus donations and loans. A further £160,000 is to be paid in installments over the next four years.
Derek said: “We still need to raise a lot of money. We will be in a much better position to purchase the building if we don’t have to use loans. There are immediate and costly repairs that must be carried out in order to sustain the building.
“We are not just a flash in the pan. We’re expecting to manage this building for the next 40 years or more, so we urge the community to purchase shares and become part of this exciting project.”
He added: “We have a building which needs urgent repair work and development but our planning is moving up a step and we’re confident that, with over 300 backers and a national profile, we will get there.”
Portland Works owner John Holland said: “It’s a fair deal for both parties. We’ve had to make compromises but were satisfied with the deal. I’m very happy that the works is able to continue to offer workspace for the existing tenants and I’m positive the building will have a bright future under community ownership.”
The two-and three-storey complex was built in 1877 and was occupied for many years by the cutlery manufacturer R F Mosley. Now grade II* listed, it is currently home to around 20 small businesses. Some of the original features, including forges, are still in use.
The campaign was supported by all the main political parties and attracted widespread community support. Shares cost £1, with a minimum holding of £100 and a maximum of £20,000.