All change for the future of Midhurst

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IT LOOKS like being all change in Midhurst in the next few years, as the face of the town at the centre of the South Downs National Park continues to shift.

Work continues at a pace on the new Grange, which is on schedule to open in April, 2014.

The town’s library, currently situated in Knockhundred Row, will then be moved to the new centre.

At a meeting of Midhurst Town Council on Monday, vice-chairman John Quilter spoke of plans for the future of the old building.

“The original intention of West Sussex County Council was that the building would be sold and our interpretation is that if it’s sold it will be for conversion to private housing,” he said.

However the council would like to see the building preserved for the town. Hopes are high the building could be used for a number of community functions, which would allow it to be acquired at a reduced price from the county council as a community asset transfer.

The new building could become the new headquarters for Midhurst Town Council.

Cllr David Coote said: “I think it sounds like a very, very sensible idea.”

Councillors spoke of the need for a ‘robust’ financial package to support the change of ownership and its transfer to the Midhurst Community Partnership.

Although in agreement with the notion, councillor Margaret Guest was more wary of the move.

“While I agree that I think it will be a wonderful community asset and it’s a building in Midhurst I think we’re all proud of and value, my concern would be cost in terms of ongoing maintenance,” she said.

“The age of the building doesn’t lend itself to commercial or office units.”

She added there were a number of vacant buildings in Midhurst that already had office space to let.

However she said she would support a feasibility study.

In response, Cllr Quilter said the project would have to ‘stand or fall’ on its viability of having a long-term incumbent, which would likely be the town council.

“Without that I think it’s much less likely to be viable,” he said.

As plans progress for the library, a report was also given to Chichester District Council this week on the latest news of the Grange.

It was reported the project had been held up because of the abnormal amounts of rain at the beginning. For cost-saving reasons, some of the work from early on has been transferred to a later stage.

“Phase two works are progressing well,” Jane Hotchkiss, assistant director of leisure and wellbeing at Chichester District Council told the council’s overview and scrutiny committee.

She added some of the internal brickwork was completed in May and the project remained within its budget of £8.1m, with current expenditure at £2.9m.