Midhurst Town Coucnil on the brink of £150k deal to buy old library

Midhurst town councillors are set to do a £150,000 deal to buy the old library in Knockhundred Row as a public hall for the town and a headquarters for the council.

Tuesday, 10th October 2017, 12:00 pm
Updated Tuesday, 12th December 2017, 12:00 am
Town councillors rolled up their sleeves and took on much of the renovation work when they moved in to the old library in November 2014

And last night (Monday. October 9) project leader Gordon McAra told fellow town councillors they had managed to get the asking price more than halved from the original £350,000 to £150,000.

The move comes three years after the council signed an agreement with West Sussex County Council, to lease the old library, with a view to buying in the future and moved in to carry out initial renovation work.

It was a dream come true for Cllr McAra, town and district councillor who was also Midhurst’s county councillor at the time. It had been his brainchild to save the historic listed building from being turned into housing and make it a community facility.

And last night telling fellow town councillors funding was now in place he said: “I am delighted we are now in a position to recommend the purchase. It’s been a lot of work, effort and paperwork, but I think we are now in the right position.”

He said the town council had been able to get the asking price down mainly because the library only had planning consent as a public building and was unlikely to get permission for commercial use.

“Also the county council is being quite benevolent in supporting the local council and the local community and I think they recognise the value of this building to Midhurst and the surrounding area.”

He said the available funding would hopefully not only buy the building but also pay for further renovation work.

Margaret Guest told the meeting she had had a ‘luke warm approach to the project in terms of the risks’.

“It’s terrific Gordon has got adequate monies in place for the purchase. My concern on the part of our local residents is for the future ongoing maintenance and how much more we are likely to be asking them for in terms of maintenance.

“It’s a beautiful building and it’s tremendous we are here, but we can’t ignore the fact that ongoing maintenance will draw on the community’s resources.”

She added: “It behoves us as councillors to demonstrate that this building is for the benefit of the community.”

Cllr McAra told her: “Currently we pay £15,000 in rent which can be used for maintenance in future and gives us a major sum of money to do the smaller jobs to keep the building running.”

Steve Morley said the council had not yet ‘scratched the surface’ in terms of opportunities for community use and hire: “It’s a fabulous building and something to be proud of.”

Midhurst had never had its own community hall’ he said: “With improvements and as people come to love it and are proud of it, it will be used more - whether for private dos or public, it will be our village hall.”

Chairman of the Finance committee Carol Lintott told the meeting: “ when we take it over as owners, we will be able to demonstrate much better that it is a public building for the benefit of the community.”