Scout group set for new headquarters after devastating fire 15 years ago
A scout group is set to get its dream headquarters after its original base was destroyed in an arson attack more than a decade ago.
The 21st West Stafford Scout Group is hoping to build a new £250,000 base from April, having spent much of the last 15 years in temporary, and increasingly cramped accommodation after their original one was destroyed by fire – leaving them facing the threat of eviction from a temporary site.
The group has now submitted plans to Stafford Borough Council for its new headquarters in Sundown Drive, which will include a main hall with an open fireplace along with a meeting room, storage area, changing rooms and toilets plus a space for the Scouts as well as for community use.
The Scouts had been at their original headquarters in Lovelace Close, Highfields, for 30 years when it was destroyed in the fire in 2002. It was rebuilt and they moved back in by 2003, but six years later the landowners, Castle Church, said they would not renew their long-term lease because they wanted to develop the site.
They transferred to a one-month rolling lease which they are still on now, meaning they could be kicked out at any time.
However, earlier this year, the group launched its Sundown 2020 campaign with the aim of moving to the new base in Sundown Drive.
Group Scout leader Nigel Watwood, aged 53, from Stafford, said: “We have been on the lease for a few years and it is not a good way to run a group.
“It is really exciting to be able to have our dream purpose-built Scout hut that will adequately serve our purpose and provide a fantastic community space.
“There are so many things we want to do, especially with the community, but can’t because the building is unsuitable. For example, when we have a proper kitchen, we can put on Christmas dinner for the old folk in the town.”
The group is now home to 18 Scouts, 30 Cubs, 20 Beavers and 20 Explorers from the Highfields, Western Downs and Rowley Park areas of Stafford.
But an increase in the number of members over the years has meant the current temporary building is too small for them and they have had to turn youngsters away.
He added: “The current building was only temporary after the other one burned down. We’ve outgrown it now, because more young people are into Scouting.”
Mr Watwood has been with the Scouts for more than 25 years, and his wife Tina Watwood was Cub leader at the time of the fire. They hope to save money by asking businesses in the area to contribute to the construction and will start fundraising as well as applying for grants next year.
The group is now waiting for the council to approve the plans and hopes that building will start in April, to be completed by 2020.