A couple of years ago, I was interviewed by BBC Radio. We started recording outside on the cycle path which was once the bed of a Victorian high-speed rail link – Yeovil’s always been a town of leadership in technology. Travel one way and the path takes you to Pittards with it’s specialist leathers. The other direction takes you past AgustaWestland, Boeing and BAE Systems to Screwfix, Silverline and many other leading companies, yet sat here, in the middle of town, is Foundry House.
We went inside because the BBC likes its interviews to have “ambience”. Walking on crushed glass and echoing our way through the empty ground floor, I explained that the building had been listed after a public campaign to save this iconic glove factory. That had constrained the Council’s plan for regenerating the town centre but we had still found a way to launch work, in the depths of a recession. We had persuaded the Department for Communities and Local Government that we could create a town centre regeneration project, centred on a listed building and achieving the very highest standards of energy efficiency. In turn, they had agreed to grant-aid the project provided we threw the doors open and showed the world how it was to be done.
The development has been scaled back slightly … it turned out the Minister didn’t actually have the money to give away! It also turned out that the site was a contamination nightmare and so we ended up without affordable housing in this phase. Nonetheless, The Glove Factory remains a bold statement, a success when others are failing. Hopefully entrepreneurs will see that Yeovil has heart and confidence … and bring their business investment here.