After having the idea of putting a Shed in a double decker bus over Christmas 2018, we started talking to various people we knew about the idea. There was an overwhelming positive response from these people and we soon had £1,000 to look into the feasibility. The most negative reponse came from the chair of another Shed who said: “Yes go ahead – if it works we may do the same”.
We wrote a business plan and then approached our two major funders: The National Lottery Community Fund (nee Awards for All) and Hampshire County Council. It took a while but by October 2019 we had all of the money we needed for the project.
We went on a hunt for a suitable bus and managed to get in a position to put in a bid on one of several that Stagecoach London were retiring from public service. We secured it and then just needed somewhere to keep it. Our initial offer came from the head of the local school where Basingstoke Shed has its main site – this was a great offer though we were concerned that the Bus would be stored near a football pitch in the middle of a new housing estate. We may well have taken up that offer had we not got another offer from Stagecoach in Basingstoke to keep the bus at their depot. The obvious advantage to this (apart from the lack of footballs flying at it) is that this is where Stagecoach fix and service their Basingstoke fleet of buses and the engineers there are very helpful, giving us advice and guidance when we need to work on ours.
Then two things happened that really delayed things. The first was that there was a mechanical fault with the service brake, so our idea of getting the Bus MOT’d where it was (in Essex) and then driving it to Basingstoke was delayed – we got a local recovery company to tow it away and then fix it. Several dates when it was going to be MOT’d came and went. Communication with the recovery company was extremely difficult, with commitments to call back never once being met. Then Covid hit and it turned a bad situation into a very much worse one. The DVSA (who do Bus MOTs) decided not to do any for three months and furloughed or redeployed all the testers. When tests resumed, it took quite a while to actually get one done, the recovery company not having used the lockdown to improve their service. Finally, we did get an MOT and arranged for a qualified driver to collect it. He drove it about 100 yards and it stopped. He got it going again and it did another 100 yards and stopped again. He took it back to the recovery company and asked how they managed to get it to go the several miles necessary for the MOT; it turned out they’d towed it, claiming that was normal practise for commercial vehicles.
We decided to cut our losses and engage a different recovery company to tow it to Basingstoke. So, on 12-Sep-20, 21 months after conceiving the idea of Shed-in-a-Bus, it arrived in Basingstoke and a new and much more productive conversion phase began.