Alston Old Primary is an old Victorian building in the heart of the North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in Cumbria. Oaklea are supporting a community led initiative to bring the premises back to life as a Hub for local people. If successful this will encompass elements of wellbeing, activities for young and old etc. The look and feel will be driven by what the local populace want to see.

Alston Old Primary

What are the plans for Alston Old Primary?

In Summer 2019 Oaklea announced they were in discussion with a local community group to develop a former school building in Alston, Cumbria. By December 2019 we started taking a more active role and started getting directly involved with the ‘Alston Old Primary Working Group’. A building survey was commissioned and meetings held with Cumbria County Council -the owners of the site.

Oaklea have a good track record in this area - notably the Appleby Hub elsewhere in Eden District (Go to Appleby Hub)

Follow latest developments on our dedicated FB page www.facebook.com/Alstonoldprimary

Alston Old Primary Steering Group

The group - which included Alex Wolfenden, Oaklea Operations Director, met in December 2019 to look at plans and decide the course of action to take ideas forward. This included having a public consultation in early 2020 to gauge local opinion.

Full steer ahead: Roe Baker, Lissie Sharp, Maxine Denoual, Chris Reed and Alex Wolfenden under the Market Cross, Alston

Public Consultation - February 2020

The first informal public consultation event was held at Samuel Kings School with an impressive turnout. As a result of all that positivity we also appealed for more people to join the ‘Alston Old Primary Working Group’.

Chris Reed (pictured above) from the Group says: “A lot of people expressed an interest in joining the steering group. For example one person said we need someone who could reach out to the younger community members. We want proactive positive people who can contribute. For example skills in PR, fund raising, youth, garden, man sheds, fitness, cafe, renewable energy, etc. so each member has a purpose and can feed information onto the group and then onto Oaklea.” (And of course all ideas in between) Please spread the word…
Let us know - or better still drop an email to Chris: Contact Chris Your thoughts would be most welcome.


The consultation attracted a great turnout at Samuel Kings -and many people filled in surveys regarding thoughts on what a possible new community Hub could contain. Thank to those who completed surveys on the day. (We’ve also created an online version of the survey if you want to fill in virtually! Go to Alston Old Primary Survey)


Then Covid19 hit - putting a hold on plans - but in late 2020 behind the scenes the business case for Alston Old Primary was collated.


Early 2021 Business Case submitted to Cumbria County Council

This is now with CCC and their Locality and Property Team. We are not allowed to share this in the public domain just yet - but as soon as we are able - we will!

Waiting game -Please be aware it will take time to get approval and will involve various meetings and approvals stages.

WHO ARE THE COMMUNITY LED PROJECT GROUP?

We will include brief biogs of some of the key people helping steer this project over the coming weeks…

Roe Baker

“I work for Cumbria Action for Sustainability (CAfS) and I first got involved with the Old Primary School as part of a wider project looking at sustainable development called the “Alston Moor Greenprint”. Climate Change will have a massive impact on all our lives unless we take radical action now so I’m promoting actions that support the community live more sustainably.

“An energy efficient renovation of the building and the installation of Solar PV on the roof will be a great way to reduce the utility bills in the future and keep the building financially viable.

I’d also really love to see a productive and collective use of some of the surrounding greenspace for community food growing which can be used in the café in the old school, it might even turn into a new community enterprise!

Even small changes can have an impact. It’s been wonderful being part of the Alston Moor Repair Café, a group of volunteers with a fantastic range of skills to share! It will be great for the Repair Café to have a permanent home in the Old Primary School where they can develop a program of activities that share skills, save money and reduce waste.

It’s time to bring a lot of LOVE back to this site that has meant so much to so many!”

Chris Reed

“I was born and bred in Alston and attended the primary school, both my sons were educated there and so I have happy memories of a building that was once at the heart of the community. I have been involved with volunteer work on Alston Moor - being a former chair of Governors at Samuel King’s School for seventeen years, assisting with junior football clubs and being a former director of Alston Moor Fitness Club. I am a great believer that exercise and sport not only improve physical fitness but also make a contribution to healthy mental fitness, social interaction and help combat loneliness. Inclusive activities can act as catalyst for the community to meet each other, learn from each other, appreciate and respect each other.

The demographics of Alston, with a lower number of primary school age pupils, has resulted in the primary pupils being accommodated at Samuel King’s School which meant the closure of the primary school in November 2017.

This now empty property gives the people of Alston the opportunity to ensure the building continues to be a community asset to the residents of and visitors to Alston but it needs support, conviction, skills, resources and most of all it needs the will of the local population to make it happen. Without this the project will fail and the much loved building will turn from a potential asset into a real liability.

There has been a lot of work carried out already by the local project group in terms of consultations, pulling ideas together, preparing sketch plans, encouraging the input of local organisations etc. The Oaklea Trust have helped pull together The Expression of Interest and the Business Plan. (Without The Oaklea Trust charity taking a lead in the project the local project group would struggle to produce the documentation and business data together required by Cumbria County Council.”

Maxine Denoual

“I’ve lived on Alston Moor for some 20 years and call Nenthead home. I remember Alston Primary School, as a parent and from helping as a volunteer in school many years ago. It saddens me to see the building stood empty, thinking, that someday, maybe, it would be part of the community once more and brought back to life. Many memories and stories I’ve heard from different folk over the years, reminiscing on years gone by, seeing those old school photos. That old building could tell a few tales.

When I heard that a small group of people were looking into how this could be achieved and were hoping to set up a small working group, I asked to help. We set about looking into how this could be achieved. We explored several options, but soon became aware that we needed help and further expertise to guide us moving forward.

A group visit to the Oaklea run ‘Appleby Hub’ was where the journey really began. Impressed by what we saw and what could be achieved in a small town, we approached ‘The Oaklea Trust‘ to see if they would be willing to work alongside us, support and develop our ideas for a community hub that would appeal to all generations.

I am now a Trustee at Oaklea- it has reinforced my opinion that they were the perfect partner organisation to approach to help and guide our local group with those ambitious plans. But we still need the support and your contributions from the wider community to make this project a success and keep it sustainable. A community resource for everyone in the locality, but specifically for all of us living and working here on Alston Moor. Please continue to support us and this wonderful community focussed initiative, keep bringing us your ideas, we’ve still got a long way to go and would appreciate your input. Even more so when we get the green light.”


Fact finders: Chris & Maxine with then Oaklea Chair Cate and Oaklea CEO Clive seeing how a community Hub is already working well in Eden District July 2019 (find out more about Appleby Hub here Appleby Hub webpage)

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Cumbria LA9 6RY

Telephone. 01539 735 025
Email. enquiries@oakleatrust.co.uk