Corn Exchange stitch-up’ claim

CAMPAIGNERS to save St Ives s historic Corn Exchange are seeking to block the sale of the building amid fears of a stitch-up . Action Corn Exchange has spoken to three possible partner developers with a view to bidding for the Grade II listed building i

CAMPAIGNERS to save St Ives's historic Corn Exchange are seeking to block the sale of the building amid fears of a "stitch-up".

Action Corn Exchange has spoken to three possible partner developers with a view to bidding for the Grade II listed building in Market Hill, but all three said they could not meet the August 24 deadline for bids - a deadline set by owners St Ives Town Council.

And a St Ives hotelier has told the town council that, with its co-operation, the Corn Exchange could be retained for the community for a fraction of the council's estimated costs.

ACE co-chairman Nick Dibben said the group would be writing this week to Huntingdonshire District Council's standards committee asking it to investigate its complaints about the town council's handling over the saga and asking it to put a block on the sale process in the meantime.


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"I don't know whether the committee has a blocking power, but it can certainly investigate the town council," Mr Dibben told The Hunts Post yesterday.

"We would love to bid for the building and we have been talking to some developers. But they all say August 24 is not long enough to put a realistic bid together.

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"This enhances the conspiracy theorists' view that there's a stitch-up going on."

St Neots-based agents Barfords and Company are now advertising the site for sale.

Two development options proposed by Barfords are the creation of a retail unit with homes to the rear, or a restaurant/café with office space above and homes to the rear.

However, civil engineer Mike Purchas, who owns the Golden Lion Hotel across the square, has told the town council it could cost only around £850,000 to reclaim the building for community use, and the council could move its offices there and let out the Town Hall.

Mr Purchas, who also refurbished the Music Box in St Ives wrote to the council last week, saying: "I am disappointed the Corn Exchange is on the market without any constraints as a pub/restaurant as well as retail and housing, despite your assurances that the building would be sold as either community use or retail/housing.

"I still believe that, working with yourselves, I could produce a scheme that would cost in the region of £850,000 to provide a building for community use. This was borne out by your own experts who costed this scheme in the early stages of 2003.

"I believe it is not too late to produce a scheme for the Corn Exchange that would greatly benefit the people of the town."

No one at the Town Hall was available for comment as The Hunts Post went to press.

INFORMATION: For details of the sale, visit www.barfords.co.uk/properties-listing.

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