The bidding process for The Wool House was won at the end of the Summer of 2013. Over the course of the summer, the building had been used on a temporary basis by Element Arts, who used it as a space to display art, and put on a number of workshops, activities and events that drew over 10,000 visitors to The Wool House. In December of 2013 a separate group, calling themselves Wool House for the Community started a campaign to stop the Wool House from becoming a brewpub, and to keep it as a community arts centre.
The Southern Daily Echo news article on the Campaign’s demonstration outside The Wool House in December of 2013 (http://www.dailyecho.co.uk/news/10882055.Groups_campaign_against_pub_plan_for_historic_building/) gained many comments, both in support of and against both points of view. If people wanted to express their views on the proposed use of the building officially though, the Wool House for the Community group had a petition set up that they could sign.
The petition (http://www.southampton.gov.uk/moderngov/mgEPetitionDisplay.aspx?ID=55) signed by 414 people by the time it closed in mid January 2014, was met with a response in support of the brewery’s plans. In their response, the council highlighted The Wool House’s long and varied history, and also pointed out that they were already developing a number of arts spaces, including the new Arts Centre to be opened in 2016.
Whilst it certainly drew attention to the Wool House project, the campaign didn’t affect the date that had been set for the committee to make the final decision on whether or not the plans would be going ahead. The application for planning approval was received by the council in mid January 2014. In mid April, after three months in which the public and local residents were given the chance to express their viewpoints, the planning committee unanimously gave their approval to the project.
On the morning of the 23rd April, the news was broke that approval had been given for the Brewery to start converting the building into a brewpub. At this point, it was hoped that the new venue would be up and running around mid-August, certainly in time for the Southampton Boat Show in mid September. Health and Safety and structural issues however meant that building didn’t even start until August.
Whilst the initial plans and timescale may have been a bit overambitious, Aidan admitted when I spoke to him in early September that better decisions were being made due to the delays. Back then, it was still hoped that The Wool House would be opened before the end of the year.
During my visit to The Wool House in late January, Stewart Cross, owner and Landlord of The Platform Tavern, restated what Aidan had said. It was somewhat underestimated how long converting The Wool House would be. As a Grade 1 listed building, any changes had to be approved.
In addition to this, further delays were added by the delivery of the kitchen and lift, which were held up by Christmas. When I was at The Wool House last, neither the kitchen or lift had yet to be installed, but both were due to come in the next week.
All that being said though, the brew kit is in, and brewing commenced on it on Tuesday 27th January 2015. In a couple of weeks time, this series will look at that beer and the others you’ll be able to drink when The Wool House opens on the 27th February.
Next time on The Road To The Wool House: New Space, New Ideas, New Identity (28)