Cowdray price hike will ‘force community groups out of Midhurst’s Capron House’

U3A 20th anniversary celebrations at Capron House
U3A 20th anniversary celebrations at Capron House

A COMMUNITY group is voting with its feet after the Cowdray Estate announced a massive increase in charges for the use of Capron House.

The Midhurst U3A group is among several community groups which have been using the Cowdray Room and other meeting rooms at the Cowdray-Estate owned building in Midhurst’s North Street.

Now U3A have told the estate they feel the price hike is a ‘retrograde’ step which will affect community use.

The Estate has been charging £25 per hour for the use of the large central Cowdray Room and £15 per hour for other smaller rooms.

There are plans to refurbish the facilities and in a shock move U3A members have been told the hourly rate is being scrapped. Instead they will be charged £300 for a half day or evening session and £500 for the whole day.

Notifying the Cowdray Estate they have found a new venue the group said: “The charges are completely prohibitive for us, as they will be, no doubt, for other community groups. There are obviously plans to change and develop the building’s usage, following its refurbishment but it’s a great loss to the town.”

They said ‘this change of policy is a retrograde step and will exclude much local usage’.

It was the venue for the group’s inaugural meeting 22 years ago and U3A celebrated its tenth and 20th anniversaries there. In addition it has been the venue for the annual garden party: “These, along with our Christmas celebrations, special events and group bookings, will now just become part of our archive.”

Members said the atmosphere of the building far outweighed its practical problems including the access and lack of disabled facilities: “It’s a sad irony now these are to be addressed we will no longer be able to afford to make bookings.”

Among other user groups which could be affected are the regular exercise classes and the evening meetings of The Midhurst Freemasons.

Cowdray’s chief executive, Jonathan Russell said: The Cowdray Estate have undertaken a review of the pricing and occupancy structure of Capron House which will continue to be used for a wide variety of events and functions.”