CAMPAIGNERS fighting to save the St Ives Corn Exchange have been dealt a £500,000 blow in their efforts to prevent the building being sold. At a private meeting last week, St Ives Town Council told the Action Corn Exchange (ACE) group that it could be den
CAMPAIGNERS fighting to save the St Ives Corn Exchange have been dealt a £500,000 blow in their efforts to prevent the building being sold.
At a private meeting last week, St Ives Town Council told the Action Corn Exchange (ACE) group that it could be denied access to a vital pot of public money.
The council has saved about £100,000 of Council Tax money for each of the five years the Corn Exchange has stood empty, with a view to spending the cash on restoration work. However, at the meeting, senior town council members told ACE that should it form a trust to take over the running of the building, it would not get £500,000 from the council.
ACE had proposed forming a trust to take over the running of the building, renovating it and returning the building to community use.
Nick Dibben, co-chairman of ACE, said: "The announcement from the town council was a bombshell and it has thrown us a bit. It is one thing to argue over the cost of a brick but these funds are a fundamental part of the building.
"We will be writing to Jonathan Djanogly (MP for Huntingdon) to check what the legal situation is with the funds. Hopefully, there will be a way around it."
The private talks were held in preparation for a public meeting on May 2 where the future of the building, one way or the other, is due to be settled.
Ted Bocking, adviser to the town council, said: "The town council is made up of elected representatives, who have the powers to spend that money.
"Handing that sort of sum of money over to a third party, even one as trustworthy as ACE, would be legally very difficult.
"If the plans are to be accepted by the council, they must include a viable, 10-year business plan that will not put any imposition on the tax payers of St Ives."
The Corn Exchange dates from the mid-18th century and closed more than five years ago because of safety concerns.
INFORMATION: A public meeting on the future of the Corn Exchange will be held in the St Ives Free Church, on May 2. To view ACE's plans for the building, visit www.thecornexchange.org.uk
* THE town council has collected £500,000 of Council Tax payers' money to go towards the restoration of the Corn Exchange. Would you be happy for those funds to be handed over to a trust run by Action Corn Exchange? Or is the council correct to keep the money? E-mail your views to firstname.lastname@example.org or write to The Hunts Post, 30 High Street, Huntingdon PE29 3TB.