‘Friends of Cotswolds’ are preferred bidders for Old Prison, Northleach

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‘Friends of Cotswolds’ are preferred bidders for Old Prison, Northleach

Cotswold District Council has announced that the ‘Friends of the Cotswolds’ are the preferred bidders to take over the ownership of the iconic Old Prison building which is situated on the A429 at Northleach.

The Council announced in July 2011 that it intended to sell the Old Prison because the costs were becoming onerous for Cotswold taxpayers.

The process of selling the building began in the Autumn of 2011 and, although the intention was to complete early in 2012, the Council became aware of many requests, both from Northleach residents and across the district, to have more influence over the future of the building. This led the Council to conclude in February 2012 that the final decision on the sale would not just take account of the price offered, but would also give due weight to a range of local social, economic and environmental factors.

Subsequently, the Friends of the Cotswolds submitted a strong bid which envisages a significant boost to the site’s viability through the creation of a higher profile for the existing Museum of Rural Life which is housed there. This would result in the restoration of the Lloyd Baker Collection of artefacts together with improvements in the interpretation of their significance. It would also see the Cotswolds Conservation Board remaining as the main tenant with the ‘Friends’ acting as the landlord.

Announcing the decision in favour of the ‘Friends’ proposal, CDC Cabinet lead for Corporate Resources, Cllr Barry Dare, said: “ This has been a long and complicated process, weighing up the relative merits of each bid on both price and quality grounds, and we thank all bidders for their perseverance in waiting for us to complete our deliberations. We had some very strong bids on the table from the private sector, offering innovative new solutions for the Old Prison. These required careful and detailed consideration when set against the ‘Friends’ bid and the obligations placed on us by Full Council back in February. The fact that both private and voluntary sectors have shown that they are willing to rise to the challenges we all face bodes well for the future of the Cotswolds.”

Leader of CDC, Cllr Lynden Stowe, added: “We think that we have struck a fair balance between protecting the taxpayers of the District whilst enabling the voluntary sector to play a much bigger role in the delivery of this important local collection. The ‘Friends’ bid offers an opportunity to develop – alongside the Cotswold Conservation Board – both a volunteer resource and a strategic tourism resource. This would have clear social, cultural and economic benefits for the district and links in with the national themes of ‘Big Society’ and localism.”

Councillor Chris Hancock, the local ward Councillor, commented: “This is a great outcome for the people of Northleach and for the wider community. Not only do we get to retain what we already have but we will also be seeing a marked improvement. What really is impressive is that the voluntary sector is keen to step up, deliver services and enhance our heritage at a time when we know the public sector has to make cost savings. It really seems to be a win – win for all concerned which I am confident will be widely welcomed and supported.”

Simon Randall, Chairman of the ‘Friends of the Cotswolds’ also welcomed the news enthusiastically: “I am delighted we have been successful in retaining this building for the enjoyment of everyone in the Cotswolds and beyond. However, the hard work starts now and we will need to raise a considerable amount of money to enable us to meet the obligations set out in our bid to Cotswold District Council. It would be a shame if all those people who have supported us through this process will now assume that the work is complete – indeed, nothing could be further from the truth, and we need volunteers to come to the fore and help us realise our ambitions . In the meantime, I would like to thank the District Council for giving us this opportunity – we will not let them or the people of the Cotswolds down.”

Posted : 28/06/2012 11:00:30

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