Progress, a wobble, and a blast from the past…

After six years of planning and fundraising, we're now ready for construction to start... but there has been an unexpected challenge that we want to share with you.

Let’s begin with the good news, because there’s quite a lot of it! 

  • We have secured £154,505 of match funding from the Welsh Government Community Facilities Programme, allowing us to unlock the National Lottery Grant and get to work. 
  • We have appointed a principal contractor to build the project! They are a fantastic, family run business with a real commitment to the goals of the project and we can’t wait to introduce them to you soon. 
  • Our SuDs application has been approved! This is a major milestone and means we now have full planning permission to go ahead and build. If you have no idea what SuDs is then check out our blog post all about it. 
  • Recruitment for the new Community Coordinator is in progress and we will hopefully have a new team member in mid-late November. 

The less positive news is to do with project costs. In order to apply for the funding we needed, we carefully costed every element of the build, working with a quantity surveyor last autumn to make sure we got it right. Some of our brilliant volunteer team went hunting for quotes (thank you!) so that everything, from the biggest costs (like the drainage) to the smallest (like the tea urn) was as accurate as possible. To allow for unexpected costs, a contingency fund was built it. You can see our blog with a full breakdown of the project budget here in case you are interested in the detail. 

Once we had the funding provisionally secured we were asked by one of our funders to complete an additional tender process, partly due to the fact that construction costs have been increasing rapidly; the Office For National Statistics reports that between July 2020 and July 2021 the cost of materials rose by 20% – check out this horrifying graph from BEIS to see just how bad things have got, with prices continuing to rise. 

A graph showing the steeply increasing costs of construction materials

The shortage of HGV drivers, labour shortages, and supply chain disruption caused by Covid are some of the reasons this has happened. We knew that our capital (building) costs were going to go up, but were devastated to learn a few weeks ago that, even after using our £38,000 contingency funds, the project build was facing a significant shortfall of around £80,000.r

Here’s what we’re doing to solve this:

  • Talking to the project funders to find out how they can help us. We’ve had some really positive conversations and hope to be able to update you on this soon.
  • Working with our quantity surveyor and contractor to negotiate areas where costs can be brought down.  
  • Applying for other smaller funding pots to try and cover specific areas of shortfall. 
  • Looking at which elements of the project can be scaled back or removed without affecting the vision for Railway Gardens. 

Here’s how you can help solve this:

  • Let us know of any funding pots you know of that you think might be suitable. 
  • If your employer sponsors local projects, please consider putting Railway Gardens forward – we can obviously help prepare any information you need. At this stage both financial support and in-kind donations of kit and materials are valuable, but we’re not yet able to support company volunteering days on site. 
  • Get in touch with any fundraising ideas or suggestions. 
  • Watch this space for the launch of our Friends of Railway Gardens scheme which will allow local people and businesses to support the project monthly for the cost of a cup of coffee. 

The most important thing to say here is that we’ll get through this together, as we have with some many other challenges to the project. Splott and Adamsdown have the tenacity and the skills to make this happen, and we’re so grateful to the many, many people who regularly offer their time and support to the project. 

So that’s the wobble, and we’ll keep you updated on the funding situation, but we’re pleased to say that it won’t stop construction beginning this autumn/ winter. 

Finally, we wanted to share with you some fascinating site history. Last week friend of the project John put us in touch with his friend Phil who had dug out some old leaflets from 1992, celebrating the opening of the site as a community park. Lots of you have shared your memories of this park with us but we’d never been able to find any photos so seeing the leaflets from Phil was so exciting! 

A clipping from a 1992 leaflet titled 'The Railway Children' showing before and after pictures of the new children's playground.

So it turns out the that playground opened in the early nineties as part of a scheme to tidy up the approach into Cardiff central – I expect many of you already knew that but given that I was 6 years old at the time I hope you’ll forgive me just learning it now! Can you help us build up an even better picture of the site’s history? If you have nay photos, or would be happy to put your memories down in writing or an audio recording we’d be over the moon. Please do get in touch at hannah@greensquirrel.co.uk if you can help. 

You can download the full leaflets here if you’re interested. We’d like to express our thanks to Wyn Thomas and Partners for permission to share these, and to Phil Bryan for digging them out for us. 

As always, we want to thank you for keeping in touch with the project. If you have any questions, suggestions, or feedback on how we can improve how we communicate then we’d be really keen to hear from you – please do get in touch. 

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