MIDHURST town councillors look set to go ahead with ambitious plans to take over the former library in Knockhundred Row for community use.
At a meeting on Tuesday evening (April 22), councillors gave their premises committee the green light to negotiate a lease with West Sussex County Council, which owns the building, so the town council can make a final decision.
The plans would provide a new home for the town council as well as a permanent home for the town’s museum.
There would also be office space for Chichester District Council’s rural town co-ordinator and the Town Team which promotes Midhurst, as well as shared exhibition and meeting space for community organisations such as South Pond Group, photographic club, Time Bank and potential space for other community organisations to meet.
In addition, it would provide a venue for licensed weddings and other events to regenerate income towards the operating costs.
The project has been led by town councillors Gordon McAra and Colin Hughes. Mr Hughes told councillors: “This is a pretty big step we are taking here – we all ought to acknowledge this as it will certainly mean a big step change in what we do.”
Although details have yet to be finalised, he said town councillors would have to ‘step up to the mark’ and volunteer to take on roles.
A three-year lease is being offered by the county council at a rent of £7,500 for the first two years and £10,000 for the third.
“During that time we hope to raise the funds to buy the building,” said Mr Hughes.
The price tag is £350,000 and he told councillors a further estimated capital cost of £40,000 would have to be raised for building work.
He said there was a ‘groundswell’ of support for the take-over from people who were concerned it should remain for community use. They did not want to see it sold as housing.
“This is a magnificent old building which could be used for so many things.”