A group of Hitchin community craftsmen are set to convert a disused public toilet block into their very own creative space – and they’ve called for the public’s backing.

The Comet: The Hitchin Hackspace plan for the Bancroft toilet block. Picture: Hitchin HackspaceThe Hitchin Hackspace plan for the Bancroft toilet block. Picture: Hitchin Hackspace (Image: Archant)

The disused toilet block at the north end of Bancroft is set to be reopened as a craft space and workshop by not-for-profit group Hitchin Hackspace.

The building – closed on safety grounds in 2007 following vandalism and misuse – will reopen as a place where things can be designed, made or repaired, new skills and technologies learned, and new skills practised.

After a long wait while their proposals were approved by North Herts District Council and checked against the covenants on the site, Hitchin Hackspace got the keys to the building earlier this year – and now they face a daunting task to turn an old toilet into a busy workspace for the community.

Hackspace member Richard Cowley, who lives in Hitchin, told the Comet: “Having the building as a permanent home means we will be able to work on more and larger collaborative projects, and become a more active group within the community, offering tools and equipment to a wider group of people.

The Comet: Riding in the BigHak vehicle, created by the Hitchin group. Picture: Hitchin HackspaceRiding in the BigHak vehicle, created by the Hitchin group. Picture: Hitchin Hackspace (Image: Archant)

“We are also hoping to run events with other community organisations and collaborate with local youth groups such as the Scouts.”

Hitchin Hackspace has lacked a permanent base since it started in 2012, with members meeting each Monday evening at the Ransom’s Recreation Ground pavilion.

Their work has been seriously limited in the past as, among other things, they have been unable to leave any permanent equipment there.

The group’s philosophy is one of helping people from the community make their own projects a reality – repairing, recycling, repurposing or reusing materials and technology that might otherwise be thrown away.

Recent projects have included a bicycle-powered blender and Bighak – a ride-on version of the 1979 toy Bigtrak, made up of raw materials including satellite off-cuts, an old bed frame and leftover household insulation.

The group hopes that the permanent base will allow them to invest in and house a range of equipment beyond the budget of many individuals, from woodworking tools to digital manufacturing tools like laser cutters and 3D printers.

Hitchin Hackspace has entered the Aviva Community Fund competition as part of its drive to renovate the Bancroft toilet block, and has requested the help of Comet readers to vote for their entry.

Richard said: “We are offering a facility that is lacking in North Herts.

“By voting for us, readers are helping us to renovate a disused and decaying building in the heart of Hitchin and create a vibrant community hub.”

If you’d like to back the hackspacers, see community-fund.aviva.co.uk/voting/project/view/17-6297. Voting closes at 12 noon on November 21.

You can also find out more about Hitchin Hackspace at hackhitchin.org.uk.