A large question mark has been left hanging over the future of a grade II listed building in the heart of Alford after the town council announced it cannot afford to maintain it.
Alford Town Council made the decision to ‘hand back’ the historic Corn Exchange, which it leases from East Lindsey District Council, at a recent meeting after a significant amount of the council’s reserves were being used to maintain it.
“The Corn Exchange is no longer a viable option for the council as it is losing money,” said Mayor of Alford, Coun Paul Rawson.
“We originally took it back to save it because we thought it was important to the community - but it would mean increasing the precept even more to allow for the repairs the Corn Exchange is in need of,” he added.
At the town council meeting, held recently, councillors voted to increase the precept by 2.5 per cent, which is a £1.63 increase per band D property.
“The repairs to the roof for example, would have cost an awful lot of money and it was a reluctant decision - if we are to improve things in the Market Place, then something has to be done,” explained Mayor Coun Rawson.
Councillors discussed the impact on the reserves during the meeting, including the main services that are covered in the precept, which are CCTV, public toilets, the Corn Exchange building where it currently holds its meetings, and the Market Place.
Coun Rawson said that although the decision to approach ELDC with a view to hand back the building had been voted on, it wouldn’t be something that was done overnight and other alternative venues such as Alford Manor House could be sought for future meetings.
Alford Town Council agreed to lease the Corn Exchange from ELDC from April 2009 to prevent its closure and disposal.
At the end of 2010 the town council felt unable to continue to run the building and, following a public meeting in January 2011, it was agreed that a charitable trust be set up to take over the management.
But, to date, such a trust has failed to materialise, and the council said it needed to cut outgoings, stating it was the ‘most logical item to dispense with’,
Gary Sargeant, Corporate Property Manager at ELDC said: “Alford Town Council has a 40 year lease for the Corn Exchange, with effect from April 1, 2009.
“The Town Council has a break clause in the lease that, subject to meeting certain conditions, could allow them to vacate the property at the end of March 2016.
“We would be happy to meet with the town council to discuss the future of the Corn Exchange if they no longer wish to occupy the property beyond that date.”