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£1 sale of public rooms to community charity stalls over hidden costs

By Cornish Guardian  |  Posted: February 28, 2014

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BODMIN Town Council has offered to sell the public rooms for £1 to a local charity so the premises can be reopened as an entertainment venue.

But the council is refusing to accept a proposal by Bodmin Community Association that it continues to pay the building's continuing maintenance costs until the charity receives sufficient grant aid to fully take over the large building, which includes the local museum.

The charity has estimated it will cost more than £1m to fully restore the building for public use.

BCA chairman Peter Old said this week the decision had put the association's takeover plans in jeopardy and his committee would be meeting urgently to discuss a way forward.

More than 600 residents have put their names to a questionnaire in support of the BCA's plans to reopen the public rooms for the use of the community after the town council closed it almost 12 months ago, citing a lack of cash to continue operating the building.

The town council said it had been encouraged by the enthusiasm shown by residents for the building to open again, and councillors supported the goal of returning it for community use, but it is not prepared to keep paying for its upkeep.

The council said it had carefully considered the offer to provide the BCA with a licence to run the public rooms, with the council retaining full liability for the building, including the increased costs of renovation as described by the BCA, with the council providing the BCA with a substantial yearly payment from the council budget.

The chairman of the town council's finance committee, Ralph Solomons, said his council didn't have the money to continue maintaining the building.

"The Government's squeeze on public finances makes it impossible for the council to retain the building, and unfortunately, the BCA proposal is unrealistic,'' he said.

But he believed the BCA would be able to operate the building in line with its plans, and the council was prepared to transfer the freehold of the building to the BCA for the purchase price of £1.

Mayor Ken Stubbs said: "The council believes that the best way to achieve the aims of the community is to make this generous offer to the BCA and we look forward to facilitating this transfer."

But Mr Old felt the council did not fully understand what his association was proposing by acquiring a licence to run it. "We do not want the town council to pay for the refurbishment of the building – that will come through grants. However, if urgent, structural work is required before grants are received, then we would have liked the town council to be responsible for that.

"To be successful with grant funding, we need some sort of contribution from Bodmin Town Council. The building has to be viable for grant applications to go forward.

"We see the public rooms as Bodmin's village hall, and there are village halls everywhere, from Penzance to Launceston, and each is supported by a town or parish council. Our committee will be meeting now to see where we go from here,'' said Mr Old.

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  • thimbles  |  March 01 2014, 4:15PM

    But the Public Rooms was in hands of Bodmin Town Council not Cornwall Council. Also the offices in Wadebridge remain used by Cornwall Council. It is just the land around it that has been sold.

  • josdave  |  February 28 2014, 10:34AM

    Typical Cornwall Council who would rather see buildings lying idle than back in use. As for Bodmin they (North Cornwall Council) had a perfectly good office in Wadebridge and what did they (Cornwall Council ) do? They sold it off cheap and spent a lot more to build another in Bodmin. This is a very wasteful council and in a time of austerity it is wrong for them to waste our money while at the same time cutting essential services.

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