Group aiming to transform historic cattle auction ring in St Ives has disbanded
- Credit: Archant
Since 2014, Save the Octagon (STO) had envisaged transforming the building from a council bin store into a community hub, featuring auction re-enactments and seasonal events.
John Souter, from STO, said: “It’s just such a missed opportunity and really annoying because it could have been a wonderful community asset.”
Estimated to cost £100,000, the group reached the half way point from money donated locally and a £35,000 grant from the Mick George Community Fund.
However, as the June deadline for the provisional grant loomed, the group said it had received “no meaningful response on lease or tenancy arrangements” from the district council, prompting funds to be withdrawn.
“We had raised £50,000 in a relatively short space of time and I don’t know many other community groups who have managed to do that,” Mr Souter added.
In July 2015, councillors decided the STO would work on the interior, while they repaired the outside for £50,000.
During this time, the group says district councillors for St Ives promoted the building, asking community groups to get involved, but still failed to speak to them directly.
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“They just didn’t talk to us and yet in public they were saying they were encouraging the community to come forward,” Mr Souter continued.
The group decided to disband after councillors reportedly deemed the group’s plans “unsustainable” and reversed their earlier decision to not let the building for commercial use.
In a joint statement St Ives district councillors Angie Dickinson, John Davies, Jason Ablewhite, and Ryan Fuller said: “We do not recognise many of the inaccurate statements made by John Souter on behalf of the Save the Octagon group.
“The fact remains that district councillors began the process of securing improvements to the Octagon building by working with the Civic Society of St Ives and St Ives Town Initiative.
“It was this successful work with those community groups that led to Huntingdonshire District Council funding the repairs that recently took place to restore the fabric of the building.
“We have always been clear that there was never any threat of the building being demolished or turned into a nightclub as Save the Octagon has repeatedly claimed.
“Ultimately there was nothing to ‘save’ the Octagon from as the intention was always to repair and retain the existing building. This has been communicated to all parties many times.
“Our stated aim has consistently been to find a sustainable use for the building that wasn’t going to cost the taxpayers of St Ives many thousands of pounds.”