Midhurst council looking to buy premises of its own

A special working party has been set up by Midhurst town councillors to look at the possibility of buying their own building in the town.

The idea is to find a building which would provide a permanent home for the town council and space to hold their meetings, as well as rooms which could be used as community facilities and office accommodation for small organisations.

Town councillors have not made public which buildings they are looking at, but the man who is chairing the steering group told a meeting of town councillors on Monday night: “There are at least two sites I have in mind.”

The town council is currently based at Capron House where it has a lease which still has some five years to run. In addition it holds its meetings in the Conference Room.

But the Gilbert Hannam trustees, who have a long lease on Capron House from the Cowdray Estate, are due to relinquish it next summer.

The South Downs National Park is set to make its headquarters in the northern end of the building next year, but the future of the southern end is far from clear and the trustees have indicated they want it vacated.

West Sussex County Council’s register office, also based in Capron House, is set to move into the new Grange Centre which is scheduled for completion in the spring of 2113.

Midhurst town councillors will be looking for long-term security of tenure, but they have not made public how they plan to finance the purchase of any building.

There were moves to debate the issue behind closed doors at Midhurst town council on Monday night, but they were strongly opposed by Colin Hughes (left) who said he was concerned about the public perception of a secret debate.

“This particular decision and discussion is so important and has such long-term implications for the community of this town, I feel very uneasy about doing it in secret – I am not happy about the route we are taking.”

Mr Quilter said he believed the council could have created a ‘misapprehension’ by seeking a secret debate. He supported making a proposal in public session, but not discussing vendors or financial issues. “None of us wants to hide things from the public,” he said. “I see it more as protecting the public interest.”

Town councillors agreed to look at the possibility of securing alternative premises and to form a working party to carry out a feasibility study and look at cost implications.

They said they wanted the working party to report back to their December meeting so if they want to take the project a stage further, they could make provision in the budget for 2012 to 2013.