ST Ives residents have reacted with enthusiasm to plans that could return the town s Corn Exchange building into a functioning entertainment venue. Now campaigners need to convince the owners – St Ives Town Council – at a meeting next month that the schem

St Ives town crier Mike Blackburn takes to the streets to advertise the exhibition

ST Ives residents have reacted with enthusiasm to plans that could return the town's Corn Exchange building into a functioning entertainment venue. Now campaigners need to convince the owners - St Ives Town Council - at a meeting next month that the scheme is workable.

More than 850 people, including Huntingdon MP Jonathan Djanogly, packed the St Ives Free Church on Friday and Saturday to view the proposals set out by campaign group, Action Corn Exchange (ACE). Crucially, a number of town councillors also attended.

The historic building, which dates back to the Victorian era, has stood empty for five years while the town council wrangled over its future. Last October the council gave ACE four months to produce a business plan to save the Corn Exchange from being sold off.

The displays included computer generated images of what the inside of the building might look like after redevelopment, while local youth groups demonstrated how the facilities might be used.

June Ives, 74, of Langley Close, St Ives, said: “I remember marching down to the Corn Exchange to have school lunch in the war.
“It would be such a shame if it closed.”

A total of 884 people visited the exhibition with many making comments and suggestions, and some stepping forward as potential new users of the building.

ACE officials reported that 99 per cent of the visitors supported the refurbishment plans.

Nick Dibben, joint chairman of ACE, said: "We are delighted with the public response to our exhibition. It shows people want to retain the Corn Exchange and get it reopened.

"We are also encouraged by the messages of support and the fact that our work is being appreciated by local people.

Sid Fisher, 62, of Oriel Court, St Ives, said: “It’s hard to understand how the Corn Exchange could be left for five years, then ACE are given four months to put a rescue plan together.
“I’m fully behind the plans to save the building.”

"The exhibition has shown that ACE has developed a good business plan and has the vision and ability to reopen the Corn Exchange. The public backs us, it is now up to the town council to show the same commitment."

Meanwhile, the St Ivo School is the latest community group to pledge its support for ACE's plans.

A school spokesman said: "The facility to extend some of the excellent work achieved by our students into the wider community will be a wonderful opportunity. Departments including drama, dance, art, music and humanities have already expressed a keen interest."

INFORMATION: Members of the public interested in supporting ACE, or potential users of the Corn Exchange, should contact Paula Luter on 01480 300963.