Let’s be clear on building

EDITOR - I am writing to clarify the situation concerning the Alford Corn Exchange [following the recent letter in the Standard].

In 2007 East Lindsey District Council (ELDC) decided that it wanted to sell off a number of the properties (including the Alford Corn Exchange), that it owned within the district.

In order to ensure that the building remained within the community and was not sold, Alford Town Council entered into a leasing agreement with ELDC to run the building. Over the next two to three years council members looked at how the Corn Exchange could be refurbished and how this might be funded.

At the same time they continued to let the building out to community groups and for private functions.

In late 2010 this was proving difficult as councils are ineligible to apply for funding from The Heritage Lottery to refurbish this type of building. As a result an open meeting was held in January 2011 to discuss the future of the building.

It was agreed that a community group be set up with a view to becoming a Company Limited by Guarantee and a Registered Charity.

This would mean they would be eligible to apply to the Heritage Lottery.

Subsequently the Alford Corn Exchange (ACE) Group was set up (under the chair of last week’s correspondent) and the Town Council gave them information and contact details of a similar group in Horncastle who had recently “saved” The Stanhope Hall from being sold under similar circumstances.

In January 2013 the Town Council had to agree its budget for 2013/14.

It agreed that it would subsidise the Corn Exchange from its reserves for this period.

However, because ACE had not produced a Business plan about how to move forward, the Town Council agreed that it could not subsidise the building from its reserves in 2014/15, nor could it look to increase its council tax to pay for the building.

Thus it was reluctantly agreed that it would negotiate with ELDC to hand back the lease in such a way that it had minimal effect on Alford Market Place.

Since that time new people have shown interest in the Corn Exchange and are looking at a new business model for the building. The next time that the council can consider this matter is in July (legally they can’t vote on a topic for six months having had a previous vote).

This gives a window of opportunity for the new group to come up with a new plan.

Finally can I say that the refurbishment of “The Robert Christopher Alms Houses” is a project being managed by the Alford Civic Trust and not Alford Town Council. The Trust has worked very hard to raise the £450,000 needed for the project.

I understand that historically the Trust is still in receipt of land rents granted by Sir Robert Christopher and that there will be the benefit of four homes for local poor people at a low cost rent.

Also, that the buildings are by the celebrated Lincolnshire architect, Fowler. His work includes the Alford vicarage and many buildings in Louth.

Linda Croft

Alford Town Clerk