SVA launches £200,000 appeal

Dr Bob Symes with members of the Sid Vale Association outside their new HQ. Ref shs 1224-29-15TI. Pi

Dr Bob Symes with members of the Sid Vale Association outside their new HQ. Ref shs 1224-29-15TI. Picture: Terry Ife - Credit: Archant

Britain’s oldest civic society is reaching out to residents to help raise £200,000 so it can develop its first HQ in its 169-year history.

The Sid Vale Association (SVA) has found an ‘eminently appropriate’ base above the historic former Trumps shop to allow it to relieve pressure on Sidmouth Museum and give it an operational base.

It manages 40 acres of land for the benefit of the public and a £2.3million fortune – but how it can be spent is restricted, so its leaders are applying for grants, beginning fundraising and asking for the community’s support.

SVA chairman Alan Darrant said: “Space for the collected items, space for research and space for meetings is now very inadequate.

“Moreover, the SVA has no permanent base from which to operate.

“We have many committees which meet regularly to manage our activities, including that of the Keith Owen Fund, which we have used to support dozens of organisations and initiatives in the valley.

“This hampers our effectiveness and we believe that the time has come to rectify this to enable us to manage our huge range of activities better.”

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Space is currently so tight at the museum that only a quarter of the items in its collection can be displayed, and there is precious little room to work. Despite this, Sidmouth Museum has gone from strength to strength.

The museum’s annual footfall is now 13,000 visitors, up from about 5,000 five years ago, due to the work of the volunteers.

Mr Darrant added: “We need further space. This must be in the town centre.

“We have decided that we can solve the problem by acquiring a two-storey property [above] the former Trumps in Fore Street.

“This is close to the museum, is in a building eminently appropriate for the SVA, and has sufficient space to cater for our needs now and for the foreseeable future.

“This will cost over £200,000 and although we have access to some capital funds built up through legacies and donations, we do need to find other sources of funding.”

The £200,000 will cover the purchase of the property and its refurbishment, including a planning application to add new toilets and bring the property up to date.

To support the appeal, send cheques payable to The Sid Vale Association to The Chairman SVA, Trent Cottage, Kestell Road, Sidmouth, EX10 8JJ. Contributors are asked to include their name and address so the SVA can benefit from Gift Aid.

The former Trumps shop is currently subject to a planning application from Coffee #1.

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