Stage one proposal

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Name of Organisation: Hitchin Hackspace

Name of Asset: Bancroft Rec old public toilet building

Point of contact: Mark Mellors (07753 828376)

Why we are interested in the asset and our plans

Hitchin Hackspace is a group of local makers and for some time we have been considering moving to a workspace of our own from our current temporary space, Ransom's Pavilion in Hitchin, which we hire for a single night on a weekly basis. This would allow our members to work on larger more involved projects, store materials, and invest in equipment to increase the capabilities within the group. We hope that by moving to a building designed around and devoted to our activities we would be able to further the group's goal of encouraging 'making' within the North Herts community.

If we are successful in our proposal for Bancroft toilets we would like to strip out the majority of the toilet facilities and remove the vegetation that is currently enveloping the building. We would then add extra lighting and power points; improve the security, access and fire systems; install shelving and workbenches and start building up an array of top quality, modern tools including 3D printers, desktop CNC routers etc. Our vision is best illustrated by this 3D rendering:

Bancroft Toilets Plan for Hitchin Hackspace by MarkMellors on Sketchfab

Click on the triangle on the image above to see the 3D model. If you have a problem viewing the above rendering, 2D images are available here [1]. For reference, this is what the building currently looks like now

Project finances

Funding model

We are expecting to fund the initial fit out with a combination of grants, sponsorship and membership pledges. On-going costs will be met by membership fees. This is a model that has been successful by groups in other areas (such as London[2] and Nottingham[3] Hackspaces, and Cambridge Makespace[4]) and we estimate is viable with our current level of membership. Similar groups typically see their membership significantly increase following an increase in facilities, and a corresponding improvement in their finances.

For this model to work we would need to secure at least a two year lease, with minimal to no rent during the first two years, to justify the initial investment. After that time a short term rolling lease would be appropriate, allowing the council maximum flexibility with its development plans, whilst potentially also generating an income from an otherwise unused asset. If the group does grow in those two years then it's expected that commercial rents would become workable, so there will be opportunities to continue and either pay a reasonable rent to operate from this site, or look at moving to alternative sites where we would pay commercial rents.


We have received a budgetary estimate from a local builder for the initial strip out and making good of about £8,500 + contigency [5]. This initial estimate is based on an full internal inspection of the property by our members and the builder who provided the quote. Also considered is the survey completed by BDP in early 2014[6], where they concluded the building condition was 'Fair - Element is still usable but is in a state where it will continue to degrade at a rapid rate if not repaired.' We estimate that a basic fit out to provide the bare minimum of facilities to cost around £600[7]. Investing in some digital manufacturing equipment such as small 3D printers and laser cutters, as well as some wood working equipment would cost around £3,000[8]. The total investment to 'open the doors' with just a basic fit out comes to around £10,000.

We have estimated the operating cost of providing heating, power, water and insurance to be around £1,300 per year[9].

The total membership pledge is £5,400 per year[10], with many members offering to provide a lump sum to kick start the fit out process. Over the course of the 2 year lease we can therefore raise at least £10,800 through membership fees alone which is enough to cover the initial fit out cost plus 2 years’ worth of operating costs with some contingency. It is likely that revenue raised through membership will increase in the second year as it has been shown by Cambridge Makespace and Nottingham, Coventry and London Hackspaces that membership grows more quickly once there is an actual space to use. In year 3 we could begin to use membership fees to purchase new equipment but until then we will look for grants or sponsorship opportunities to pay for equipment in the workshop.

Over time we hope to be able to equip the space with top quality equipment (including a CNC router and metal working equipment), which would require an investment of approximately £20,000[11]). We anticipate that we would be able to invest in equipment as and when finances permitted, whether this be from increased member subscriptions/pledges or via other sources such as grants or sponsorship.

Engagement and benefits

The space and its members will support the local people in a number of ways:

  • A flexible, capable facility available for working on their individual projects
  • Training and skill development through structured sessions on particular equipment/technologies/techniques
  • Knowledge transfer, support and networking through organised events
  • Group projects that benefit the local community (such as the bike powered blender we built to support the Triangle Community Garden Open Day).

Hitchin Hackspace has also offered the opportunity for a number of people new to the area to join in with associated activities and social events, enabling them to integrate and engage with others in the community.

Whilst individual members are likely to get the most benefit from the space, we are very keen to work with other groups to maximise utilisation and improve the economics. This could include:

  • Local tech companies: helping them widen their offering or allow them to develop new products
  • Freelancers: hot desks could give them better work environment
  • Scouts, Beavers, Cubs, Guides, Air Cadets, Arts and Sewing Groups: tools and technology for demonstrations or activities

As the space and the activities will be entirely managed and run by members/volunteers, it is expected that the actual activities will inherently react to the opportunities and interests of the community.

Benefits to the local area

  • Bringing a currently empty and unused council owned building back into public use at no cost to the council. This will prevent the building falling into further disrepair and actually save the council money if they decide to change the use of the building at a later date.
  • Reducing antisocial behaviour around Bancroft Rec.: As the building will be in use most days and several evenings this will discourage antisocial behaviour in the area such as graffiti spraying. The building will likely be lit up at night, which will reduce the likelihood of people loitering around the building after dark thus making it a safer place for members of the public to walk past at night.
  • Good publicity for the council: Working with a local community group to bring back into use a public building whilst assisting them to achieve their goals would be a great publicity story for the council.
  • Educational value: New members will be trained to use new equipment and develop new skills. All types of ‘making’ will be covered so members can learn from each other.
  • Collaborative working: Having a space will allow individuals or other local groups to collaborate on innovative and interesting projects that they wouldn’t otherwise have access to e.g. Triangle Gardens smoothie bike.

About Hitchin Hackspace

We are an unincorporated association (Constitution)[12], with the objective of creating and running a not-for-profit community workshop. When we get a dedicated space we will convert the association into a limited company, allowing the company to hold assets. We currently have 15 paying members, with around another 30 people who have attended either social or build nights over the last 2 years, some of whom were discouraged by our temporary space arrangements. We meet weekly in the pavilion on Ransoms Rec, where we work on individual or group projects. Our projects all involve making in the broadest sense, whether its sewing, stop motion animation, software, electronics or furniture making. Frequently the projects include learning or developing a new skill, supported by the talent and experiences of their fellow members.

Hitchin Hackspace is a fully engaged member of the UK Hackspace Foundation [13] member, and in the past few months, have exhibited projects at the UK Maker Faire[14], Electromagnetic Field Festival[15], and Derby Mini Maker Faire[16].

The 'Maker Movement' has been growing throughout the world over the past few years, and can be considered a broad term for people interested in crafts of all types, from inventors to tinkerers; from artists to coders.

One of the key elements of the movement is a progression from a do-it-yourself (DIY) approach, to a more collaborative do-it-with-others (DIWO) culture – the development of a community of like-minded individuals, who can share knowledge, techniques and inspiration both locally and globally. This focus on community has been instrumental in the creation of communal workspaces across the world allowing makers to access what they need to realise their creative urges, and also allowing makers to share their passion within the wider community. It is exactly this type of space that the members of Hitchin Hackspace would like to re-create in North Herts.

As Ransoms Rec is primarily used by the Triangle Community Garden Group, we're currently limited to the materials and equipment we can transport to and from the site that evening. We are looking for a dedicated space where we can work on and store our projects, as well as invest in a range of tools and equipment. Past projects worked on at Ransoms Rec have included a USB controlled indicator LED[17], radio controlled[18] self-balancing[19] and autonomous[20] robots[21] and 2 motion controlled[22] model cranes[23]/robots[24]. These have all been relatively small projects that require relatively portable tools to construct. Members have also made small wind tunnels[25] (as an aerodynamics demonstrator); stylish tables[26] and magazine racks[27] and bighak[28], a giant robot which was built with the aim of encouraging children's interest in programming.

The larger projects were much more difficult to work on and complete because of limited access to a suitable space. They were mostly constructed in members' gardens, sheds and garages, limiting what was possible. With a dedicated space we would like to work on more group projects that benefit the local community, potentially including schools & local youth groups. We can also start using more appropriate tools for our projects, reducing the design compromises, allowing us to work more efficiently and produce a higher quality end result.

We have a planning committee that meets as required but generally decisions are made as group and there are no defined roles. We have a diverse membership, including many skilled professionals with a wealth of experience relevant to developing, working in and managing a workshop or other asset. Many of the members have past experience of running or setting up similar groups in other topics/locations, such as rocketeering, astronomy, amateur radio and other hackspaces and Makerspaces. The membership draws mainly from Hitchin and Stevenage, with the surrounding villages also being represented.

Risks and Mitigation

Building maintenance uneconomical

The building appears to be in a good state from the outside, but it could be that the inside has significantly deteriorated, or that the existing fittings and layout are too expensive to adapt or bring up to acceptable standards.

  • We will reduce this risk by having a thorough inspection and appraisal by skilled surveyors/builders, confirming that the work required is compatible with our budget and plans before committing to any development.

Lease or locality limitations

As this is a new venture it is difficult to predict what activities, facilities or services the group could become usefully engaged in. Equally the plans and eventual activities need to be compatible with any necessary social, safety, space, statutory or fiscal constraints. If additional constraints are put on the group in order to meet social, safety, space or other requirements that are not specified at the start of the project there is a risk that the group may not be able to fund the necessary changes.

  • We will reduce this risk by creating detailed plans, reviewing them with experienced advisers and stakeholders and ensuring that they are compatible with any lease or other constraints as early as possible.

Building modifications limit future development options

It is expected that most of the necessary building modifications will be congruous with any of the alternative proposals for the building. There will probably be some general limitations that can usefully be defined though. There is a risk that our changes may modify the building to such an extent that it cannot then be used for other purposes.

  • We will reduce this risk by agreeing clear restrictions before any building work is undertaken.

Activities inconvenience local residents

The building is on a main road near the centre of town and opposite the 'Venue' sports bar, so the area already has noise and traffic during the day and into the early hours. We expect that the building will be in use most days and frequently in the evenings so our presence in the building would actually reduce the levels of antisocial behaviour (such as graffiti) in the area. Never-the-less, we would not want to create any problems. So we will listen to any concerns from local residents and put suitable measures in place to mitigate their concerns.

  • We will reduce this risk by discussing our plans with local residents, and agree limits on noise etc as appropriate.
  • We will impose time curfews for any noisy equipment (e.g. woodworking tools)


A location where it is known that there are expensive tools & other equipment could be attractive to thieves.

  • We will reduce this risk by ensuring the site is secure at night, and install security alarms, suitable locks, appropriate ‘lock up’ procedures. Only members will have direct access, non-members will need to be accompanied by a member.

Group incapable of sustainably meeting responsibilities

Small groups can become so reliant on individuals that their operations are sensitive to small changes in membership.

  • We will keep a flat structure with role sharing and publicly accessible, traceable documentation of methods and obligations (i.e. this wiki).

Health and safety

People using the space may injure themselves through misuse of equipment.

  • We will risk assess all equipment and activities and ensure that appropriate training is provided. Age restrictions will be imposed, or under 18s will require direct supervision for high risk equipment. Where training has been deemed necessary for safe use of the tool, no body will be allowed to use the equipment unsupervised until they have been trained and assessed to be competent. In reality most tools will be low risk in the first instance.

Risk Register

Risk Detectability (1-3) Probability (1-3) Impact (1-3) Risk score (1-27) Risk after mitigation
Building maintenance uneconomical 1 3 3 9 4
Lease or locality limitations 1 2 2 4 2
Building modifications limit future development options 2 1 1 2 2
Activities inconvenience local residents 2 1 1 2 2
Security 3 2 2 12 4
Group incapable of sustainably meeting responsibilities 2 1 3 6 4
Health and safety 1 2 2 4 2

Detectability: 1 = easily detected, 3 = difficult to detect

Probability: 1 = unlikely, 3 = very likely

Impact: 1 = minimum impact, 3 = significant impact

References & External Links

  2. London Hackspace
  3. Nottingham Hackspace
  4. Cambridge Makespace
  5. Bancroft toilets rip-out & make good
  7. Hackspace fundamental equipment list
  8. Basic CNC & woodworking tool costs
  9. Hitchin Hackspace operating costs
  10. Hitchin Hackspace subscription details
  11. Complete digital manufacturing costs
  12. constitution Hitchin Hackspace constitution
  13. UK Hackspace Foundation
  14. UK Maker Faire
  15. Electromagnetic Field Festival
  16. Derby Mini Maker Faire
  17. USB controlled indicator LED Blinkstick
  18. Radio controlled robot
  19. Radio controlled self-balancing robot
  20. Autonomous robot
  21. Robots
  22. The Claw
  23. Kinect controlled model crane
  24. Motion controlled robot
  25. Model wind tunnel
  26. Outdoor pallet table
  27. CNCd magazine rack
  28. bighak