Brixton Windmill’s plans to mill flour for the first time since 1934 could be thwarted due to Lambeth Council’s ‘deafening silence’, windmill supporters claim.
A spokesman for Friends of Windmill Gardens (FOWG), a residents’ group for the Lambeth landmark, fear delays at the council on the go-ahead to build a new visitors’ centre may mean they run out of money and be unable to continue education programmes.
Executive Committee member of FOWG Kim Winter explained that despite being told by the council in January 2015 that money was available, they are still waiting to hear if the centre can go ahead.
“We would be devastated and I think the schools would be devastated, judging by the comments we’ve had,” she said.
The new building would allow income-generating school workshops to run five days a week, which could help the education programme pay for itself.
It would also allow the Friends to store grain for grinding into flour to sell to raise more money.”
Ms Winter said that confirmation on when a new building will be ready is required to plan future education activities or alternatively start applying for transition grants.
Without a date, the FOWG is concerned they will be left in a position where they have no money to pay for the Windmill’s Education Officer and no venue in which to hold the workshops or store grain.
Council funding for the Windmill’s education programme runs out in December 2015, although FOWG are paying themselves to extend it until March 2016.
So far 349 supporters have signed an online petition to Lambeth Council and a further 600 signatures were collected in and around Brixton.
Louise Barron, wrote: “Come on Lambeth step up to the mark and fulfil your pledge.
“There are enough property developers who have contributed to the councils [sic] coffers that you can put your hand into to come up with the money for this worthwhile project for the betterment of the younger members of our community.”
The petition was presented by Cllr Adrian Garden at a council meeting on Wednesday November 18.
Four workshops are currently offered by the Windmill and since the 2012/13 academic year, the number of school children attending the workshops has increased more than 260 a year, according to Lambeth Council figures.
The figure was at a record high of 949 school children in the 2014/2015 academic year.
Workshops currently take place at an interim venue shared by Holmewood Nursery School (HNS) which occupies the space four days a week, only allowing the windmill access to the one remaining free day each week.
However HNS, which also faces funding cuts, is planning to increase its own activities from next financial year – a situation which the Friends of Windmill Gardens claim makes sharing the current space ‘impossible’.
Louise Gee, Assistant Head Teacher of Sudbourne Primary School, warned Lambeth Council of the negative impact this would have on the quality of learning in many of the schools in Lambeth ‘for generations to come’ in letter dated November 17.
She said: “Real life experiences this valuable are so rare to find in this day and age!
“These memorable hands learning visits to Brixton Windmill are an intrinsic part of our pupils’ learning experiences and skill development, not to mention the enormous historical insights that are gained from learning from its background.
“To end this funding would be damaging and detrimental for so many future generations of our pupils!”
Cllr Jane Edbrooke, Cabinet Member for Neighbourhoods, said: “We remain committed to providing an education centre for the Brixton Windmill, and the plans have formed part of our Culture 2020 strategy which has now been approved by Cabinet.
“Being such a sensitive location in regards to the open green space surrounding the Windmill, providing this facility needs careful consideration and takes time.
“Officers will continue to work with the Friends of Windmill Gardens to assess all of the options and in the meantime the interim arrangements in place to share the use of an existing building next to the Windmill can continue.”
The council didn’t confirm a timeline as to when the feasibility studies will be completed.
Built in 1816, Brixton Windmill fell out of use in the 1930s but was restored in 2010-11 with a Heritage Lottery Fund grant of almost £400,000.
The windmill started grinding wheat again earlier this summer, launching the occasion with Milling Monday on the May Bank Holiday.
Small amounts of flour are given away as a gift to anyone who donates to the project, however the plan is to eventually mill larger amounts of flour and sell it to visitors and businesses.
You can sign the petition by visiting https://www.change.org/p/lambeth-council-don-t-let-brixton-windmill-s-education-programme-grind-to-a-halt
Picture courtesy of Matthew Kirkland, with thanks