It's coming home, it's coming home; radio is coming home - to Chelmsford

April 17, 2015 6:03 PM
Graham Pooley

Cllr. Graham Pooley helped saved the radio bid

Radio is coming home to its birthplace, in the Marconi factory in Chelmsford. An eleventh-hour deal has been done whereby the volunteer-run "Chelmsford Community Radio (CCR)" will be based in the water tower at the former Marconi factory.

Lib Dem Graham Pooley persuaded the new owners of the site, Bellway homes, to do a fairer deal on the rent expected to be paid by CCR.

The Liberal Democrat representatives for the area have backed this project through thick and thin since 2007. Back in 2007 Jude Deakin and Graham Pooley were elected as Councillors to represent Marconi Ward. They were keen to see some Marconi legacy retained on the Marconi New Street site.

A meeting early in 2008 with Matt Eaves (now a co-director of Chelmsford Community Radio) led to the nucleus of an idea: we should have our very own Community Radio Station based somewhere on the Marconi site.

Chelmsford City Council liked the idea of the radio station and the Marconi site seemed to be the natural home, such an opportunity could not be wasted, everyone wanted it to happen!

Sadly the developers went into liquidation and the site languished. It was quite some time before Bellway Homes, the new developer, was found.

Immediately Jude and Graham got back in touch with Matt Eaves and arranged a meeting with Bellway to discuss the possible use of the Water Tower as a base for the Radio Station and a place to train people and offer apprenticeships in Radio Communication and Technology. Plans were developed and Chelmsford Community Radio was born, eventually broadcasting on the internet from January 2014. The station also invested in a mobile unit which can do outside broadcasts from events around the County.

Bellway part-finished the refurbishment of the Water Tower, whilst building the houses and their leisure facilities on the site. Unfortunately, negotiations for CCR to occupy the building kept stalling. Bellways had asked for a commercial rent way beyond the scope of any new community organisation.

In late Autumn of 2014 Cllr Jude Deakin contacted Richard Burrows (MD of Bellways Chelmsford) and asked for a meeting with them and Hal MacLean (co-director of CCR) to open lines of communication once again. Both Jude and Hal left that meeting hopeful that things would move along swiftly and they reported this to Princess Electra Marconi on their visit to her in Rome the following month. She was delighted that her father's work would continue in some way on the New Street site, which she had fond memories of as a girl.

Time went by, emails and phone messages left unanswered. It looked as if it wasn't going to happen after all, and nothing from Bellway. Eventually they responded to CCR's offer, but it was not enough for Bellway.

Some quick thinking by Cllr Graham Pooley and several telephone conversations later, acting as a mediator, he managed to secure a small amount of short term assistance from the City Council to enable CCR to meet Bellway's requirements and make plans to move in.

This would have been a tragic loss to the community, a waste of a one off opportunity to support the Marconi legacy, which could have been lost for good.