WORK is under way on an ambitious scheme to renovate one of Flint’s most important historic buildings.
The Old Court House on Church Street dates back to the 16th century and is thought to be one of the oldest surviving buildings, other than the castle, in the town.
A Grade II Listed building, the property had fallen into disrepair and was in need of complete renovation.
But it was bought by Clwyd Alyn Housing Association, part of the Pennaf Housing Group, which engaged specialist architects and conservation experts.
Thanks to the support of Flintshire Council and the Flint Townscape Heritage Initiative, work has now started on renovations with the aim of leasing the refurbished property to Us Unltd, a social enterprise which plans to use the building as a café and meeting place for community groups with office space on the first floor which can be used for training and advice purposes.
The renovation project will cost around £466,000 which has been financed by the Pennaf Housing Group with the support of a £280,000 Town Heritage Grant.
Dr Sarah Horrocks, chairman of Clwyd Alyn Housing Association, described the building as “an extremely important landmark property”. She said the dedication of Flintshire’s conservation officers, the expertise of the specialist consultants, and the vision of the young people at Us Unltd had all played a part in helping the renovation project become a reality.
“We’re pleased that award-winning contractors Harley and Clarke Construction Ltd have now started work on site.
“The project brief involves careful refurbishment of many listed items within the building, retaining them in a way that allows the property to be developed for its intended use.
“All stages of the work will be sensitively progressed and fully monitored,” said Dr Horrocks, who added a central staircase reputedly salvaged from the Great Eastern Steamship would be restored as part of the work.
Us Unltd plans to open the building as a café using locally sourced food, with a meeting room for community groups, said co-director Shaneice Roberts.
She added: “This project has been almost four years in the making. I’m very excited that we’re moving forward to the next stage.
“We know there’s a demand for somewhere to meet in Flint town centre, available for all ages, and providing good, high-quality food at an affordable price. This will give an old building a new lease of life and I can’t wait to welcome our first customers into our new café.
“We’ll be creating jobs and training young people, giving them the skills to build new careers in catering and business management, plus bringing trade back into Church Street.
“The meeting room means local groups will have somewhere handy to get-together, with good food available as well.
“We’ve great plans for the future, although first we have to decide on a name for the new venture.”
They hope to open in the New Year, taking over the lease once the initial building work is completed.
Cllr Aaron Shotton, leader of Flintshire Council, said: “Us Unltd is a great success story and proves the power of social enterprise. It’s wonderful to see this young people’s going from strength to strength.
“The council is fully supportive of social enterprises and getting our 16 to 25-year-olds either into work or into education and training.
“Us Unltd is a shining example of the outstanding contribution such organisations can make to society.”