A BUSINESSMAN has been given the chance to save one of the district s historic buildings and provide a town with the new community facilities residents have been demanding. Mike Purchas could now be the man to bring the St Ives Corn Exchange back into use
A BUSINESSMAN has been given the chance to save one of the district's historic buildings and provide a town with the new community facilities residents have been demanding.
Mike Purchas could now be the man to bring the St Ives Corn Exchange back into use for the people of the town and the surrounding villages.
In somewhat of a U-turn by St Ives Town Council, Mr Purchas has been given the green light to draw up plans for the redevelopment of the building.
Councillors had seemed determined to off-load the Corn Exchange to the highest bidder after dismissing proposals by Action Corn Exchange (ACE) and putting the building up for sale.
However, last week the council agreed to listen to a proposal from Mr Purchas, owner of the town's Golden Lion Hotel, regarding the future of the building.
Mr Purchas believes that the town council can renovate the Corn Exchange for around £850,000 - significantly less than previous schemes.
The businessman is keen for the building to be used as a community facility again and has offered his experience to the town council as well as suggesting that he could get discounts on materials used for the work.
Mr Purchas, who also refurbished the Music Box in St Ives and an hotel in Nottingham, told The Hunts Post "I don't want to have to do it. To be honest, the council should be doing it, but I have been left with no other choice.
"Four weeks isn't a long time to prepare a proposal but I have looked at the original costings from 2002/03 and I am sure I will be able to prepare something.
"This situation has been forced on all of us but I will make time for it - needs must. I will provide a community hall for St Ives, I'll even manage it for a couple of years if needs be, but it is up to the people of the town to come and use it."
He added: "I don't believe the hall is as damaged as everyone thinks it is and people always bump up the cost when they hear it is a council job. The scheme won't be on a grand scale, but it will be what is needed."
Mayor Cllr Deborah Reynolds told last week's meeting: "This is an excellent offer. We have said in the past we will not go over £1million and this scheme is way below that."
Councillors voted unanimously to allow Mr Purchas to prepare a proposal that will be presented to the town council on September 5.
Meanwhile, the building remains on the market with Barfords, but it is believed a financially sound proposal from Mr Purchas would be the favoured option.
If the proposal is accepted, it is expected that Mr Purchas, who has a background in civil engineering, would act as project manager for any renovation work. The town council would remain owners of the building.
Speaking after the council meeting, Cllr Doug Dew told The Hunts Post: "He is a successful businessman who has made a comfortable living for himself and is now looking to give something back to the town."
The entrepreneur looked round the derelict building with Cllr Dew and Cllr Jason Ablewhite last week.
Cllr Dew added: "I was ex-pecting him [Mr Purchas] to see the inside of the building and shudder but he actually said it wasn't as bad as he had feared."
The Corn Exchange closed in 2001 because of structural concerns.