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CDC will look for community benefits when it sells Northleach Prison
Members at Cotswold District Council met on 28 February and considered a public petition proposing a delay in the sale of the Council-owned Northleach Prison. Although the Council voted to continue with the sale of the property, the case put forward by the local residents was warmly welcomed, and Members have been keen to reassure them that they will think carefully about the bids on offer and give prime consideration to those which offer substantial benefit to the community.
Commenting on the outcome of the vote, the Cabinet lead for Corporate Resources, Councillor Barry Dare, said: “The Council approved the disposal of the Old Prison and Police House at Northleach during a previous meeting in July 2011, and we are now a long way down the route towards selling this asset with some eight bids on the table and the related due diligence process well underway. We had previously made clear that we would consider a potential bid from the current tenants, the Cotswold Conservation Board –or any other community-inspired initiatives - as part of that process, but time has moved on. It was very disappointing to hear that the Conservation Board’s bid for Heritage Lottery funding did not succeed on the grounds that it did not offer sufficient value for money to warrant further investigation. While it is admirable that the community sought more time to look for another means of raising funds, we believe that we could lose out on a very good proposal which will be of economic and cultural benefit to the community if we continue to delay things further.”
He continued: “At the July 2011 meeting, we made it clear that we could no longer justify spending Council Taxpayers money on a property where the rental income doesn’t even cover the building’s maintenance costs on an annual basis, especially since it will require significant investment over the next few years and currently provides a negative financial return. We have received a number of interesting bids for the property which offer a range of community and economic benefits. We cannot go into any great detail at the moment owing to commercial sensitivities, but I will say that any decision we make will take account of the local concerns that were aired at the 28 February meeting, which means that we will not be guided by price alone. For that very reason, we have asked the Member for Northleach, Councillor Chistopher Hancock, to help us select the most attractive bid.”
Councillor Hancock sought assurances at the 28 February meeting on the future of the heritage items which are currently housed in the Prison and elsewhere, including the prestigious Lloyd Baker collection. He was informed by Councillor Barry Gibbs, the Cabinet lead for Customer Services, that the artefacts will be cared for and made available for display, elsewhere if necessary, at a later date.