'Come clean' over Ludlow Assembly Rooms, says councillor
Concerns have been raised over the future of a prestigious arts venue in south Shropshire.
It was announced last week that Shropshire Council had taken the decision to reduce the lease on Ludlow Assembly Rooms from 125 years to just three.
Councillor Andy Boddington, who represents Ludlow on Shropshire Council, said the authority now needs to 'come clean' over its plans for the venue, which is a recognised community asset.
Earlier this week leader of Shropshire Council, Councillor Peter Nutting, said that there were no current plans to sell off the venue, which is currently undergoing renovation. The council has agreed to pay £1.3million to finish the works.
He added that the council had 'no intention' of selling the much-loved Assembly Rooms.
But Councillor Boddington said: "This is a politician’s promise akin to “Read my lips: no new taxes”. No intention is not the same as a guarantee that a sale will not take place.
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"Shropshire Council should now come clean and set out what its options are for the future of Ludlow Assembly Rooms. It needs to explain why it wants to restrict the initial community asset transfer (CAT) to three years. And what it will do when that CAT ends."
Discussions regarding the Assembly Rooms were held in private last month and Councillor Boddington added: "This should not be debated behind closed doors. Ludlow Assembly Rooms is a community asset with widespread financial and volunteer support from the community.
"But it is not Shropshire Council’s style to be open about its discussions. It slaps the label “confidential” on anything where it is running scared about community reaction to its decisions.
"Shropshire Council has agreed to pay £1.3 million to finish the works need to bring the Assembly Rooms up to contemporary standards. That’s good. As landlord, the council has always had responsibility for upkeep and repairs. These costs should not be borne by Ludlow’s community."
Councillor Boddington believes there are four options regarding the future of the Assembly Rooms. The first is the Shropshire Council takes control in 2023 when the CAT transfer ends. Alternatively it could be transferred to a third party or even sold to a third party.
"Newly refurbished, the council could get a lot of its money back," he added.
"Its future financial responsibilities will be zero. This option is not ruled out despite Peter Nutting’s comments. Whether any commercial operation will be viable would not be considered if the council decided to sell. It’s off the council’s hands."
The fourth and most preferable option according to Councillor Boddington is 'just getting on with it'.
"This is the best option," said Councillor Boddington. "Peter Nutting and the cabinet have always found money for shopping centres, schemes in Oswestry and new roads.
"The cabinet should pay the money our town is owed to make good its years of neglect of the Assembly Rooms. Then it should hand it over to Ludlow on a 125 year lease as agreed."