Press release issued by Abingdon-on-Thames Town Council, 30th March 2014
Last year Abingdon-on-Thames Town Council announced plans for a major redevelopment of the Guildhall. These plans included the building of a new cinema seating 100 people and a major revamp of the Abbey Hall so that it could become a modern, multi-purpose hall to enable exhibitions, stage performances, conferences, banquets and balls as well as acting as a larger, second screen cinema for popular showings. The plans also improved the access to, visibility and interpretation of the heritage of the building, secured ground floor access to the whole building, and introduced accessibility to rooms in the historic building which are currently inaccessible for people with impaired mobility. The proposals have received strong support from the people of Abingdon. When the Council went out to public consultation on this matter, 94% of those questioned answered that they were either extremely positive or excited about the scheme.
Spurred on by the level of public support for the Project, in November 2013 the Council submitted a bid of £1.9 million to the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) under their Enterprise Fund programme. Unfortunately we have now heard that this bid was unsuccessful.
Whilst the Council is naturally disappointed we had prudently been working on contingency options should the bid not be successful and remain positive about the scheme. Going through the HLF process has delayed the Project by a few months but the process has been helpful in clarifying the Council’s thinking in a number of areas. Having regard to the potential grant which would have been awarded had the bid been successful it was clearly right and worthwhile applying to the HLF.
The Guildhall Improvement will still proceed but the Council will now be re-evaluating the Project and looking at two key areas:
- Other funding sources will be explored to see if the Council can still fund the exciting full phase 2 scheme and whether a charity should be established to take this forward;
- Options for reducing the cost of the scheme to approximately £2.5m whilst retaining its core important features.
No decisions have been taken as yet and these matters will be considered over the coming months.
Cllr Alison Rooke, Vice-Chairman of the Guildhall Committee said: “It is a great shame that on this occasion our application to HLF was not successful. The Guildhall remains a very important facility for the people of Abingdon and the surrounding area and one that we are determined to improve and invest in. It’s important that we now take stock to ensure we move forward in the best possible way.”
Cllr Iain Littlejohn, Chairman of the Guildhall Committee said: “It is disappointing that this funding opportunity has not worked out but our core desire to effect major, worthwhile improvements to the Guildhall, including bringing cinema back to the town, remains. We will now work hard and creatively to explore how we can reduce costs and raise funds in order to turn our vision into reality.”
Please direct any enquiries on this matter to Nigel Warner, Town Clerk, on 01235 468349.