A DECISION on whether The Priory is to be sold could be made the week before Christmas.
The Liberal Democrats want to restore the Grade-II listed building for community use and office space for town council staff. The Conservatives, who control the town council, see the project as a financial burden to residents and are looking to sell the building.
Speaking at a meeting last week, deputy clerk to the town council Mel Alexander, said that councillors could decide whe-ther or not to sell the building on December 16.
The town council purchased the building for £400,000 in 2009. An estimate of £815,000 price has been given for refurbishing the building and more than £300,000 has been spent on work so far.
The town council can borrow up to £760,000 from the government’s public works loan board to fund the project, but it is seeking expressions of interest following valuations which revealed that the town council would lose £854,172 if it sold The Priory for commercial use.
This is compared to a loss of £619,172 for residential use and £569,172 if it were sold for a development opportunity.
The chairman of The Priory committee, Roger Croft (Con, Thatcham South and Crookham) told the Newbury Weekly News that estate agent Quintons would present the expressions of interest in early December. However, he said that a decision to sell could be delayed if councillors felt more work was required.
Members of the community have spoken of their concerns over the potential sale of The Priory in letters sent to the town council.
The headmaster of Kennet School, Paul Dick, said he was horrified that Thatcham had grown rapidly while its infrastructure had been neglected, with investment continually flowing into Newbury.
Mr Dick said that there was a golden opportunity to show the value of community in Thatch-am and provide a community space for people in the town centre.
“Surely it is time for the needs of the community of Thatcham to be put first?” he said.
“This town needs and deserves more investment in community facilities and where better to start than The Priory?”
The president of Thatcham’s Royal British Legion and former chairwoman of Thatcham Vis-ion, Stephanie Steevenson, said that the simple choice was to accept irrecoverable losses as opposed to significant investment that would deliver a valuable asset.
The chairwoman of Thatcham Historical Society, Susan Ellis, said that it would be a significant and irretrievable loss if the building was sold. The society added that the town council should consult residents over a sale and be certain that all avenues had been explored before a decision was made.
The former chairman of The Priory committee Mike Cole (Lib Dem, Thatcham North) said that the letters showed that “the movers and shakers” in the town were saying that The Priory would be a valuable resource for residents.
But Mr Croft said: “The people who are going to be paying for it for the next 25 years [Thatcham precept payers] have not written in.
“None of the letters talked about money and we live in a world where things have to be paid for.”
He added that the financial burden of The Priory, if the project continued, would severely curtail the town council’s ability to continue to provide services for residents.