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Kingsclere dance school under threat as Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council looks to sell building

A KINGSCLERE dance school with more than 200 pupils could be forced to close if the building it operates out of is sold.

24 Swan Street has been owned by Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council for 100 years, but the borough council is now considering selling the building to make way for residential properties.

It was reported in a Kingsclere Parish Council meeting on July 26 that the building has been running at a loss for 20 years and wasn’t viewed as a long-term asset by the borough council.

24 Swan Street, Kingsclere ..Ref: 32-1321. (50076594)
24 Swan Street, Kingsclere ..Ref: 32-1321. (50076594)

Instead, the council is looking to sell the site and have it converted into a five-bedroom property with one three-bedroom and one two-bedroom properties attached.

However, the building has been home to JLD School of Dance for around three decades, and is also used by the Kingsclere Performing Arts College (KPAC) – which also operates out of the former Catholic Church across the road.

The council and the dance school are now negotiating to see if the dance school is able to purchase the building at market value – around £500,000.

24 Swan Street, Kingsclere ..Ref: 32-1321. (50076595)
24 Swan Street, Kingsclere ..Ref: 32-1321. (50076595)

The dance school’s principal Hayley Crunden said she understood the council’s problems but said it “didn’t understand” the impact it would have.

She said: “We understand they need to get the property off their portfolio because it’s an old building and needs a lot of work but I don’t think they understand the implications of it.

“There isn’t anywhere else to go and we’ve tried to put across how long we’ve been there and how many kids we’ve taught who’ve gone on to bigger things.”

Mrs Crunden said there was no other space in Kingsclere for the school, and although it could move to Newbury or Basingstoke, those markets were already saturated with dance schools.

24 Swan Street, Kingsclere ..Ref: 32-1321. (50076596)
24 Swan Street, Kingsclere ..Ref: 32-1321. (50076596)

She said they’d had investors interested in helping them buy the building and restoring it, but the council had then insisted on a covenant on the building, giving it a share of any future profits.

Mrs Crunden continued: “The issue here is it all leads back to money.

“From our point of view, as much as we’re trying so hard to work with them and listen to them and not make this us against them, they’re making it quite difficult.

“It’s a shame there can’t be a compromise over our ability to buy it, where although they didn’t quite make the money they wanted, they’re keeping something there that’s been there for 28 years.”

Despite the difficulties facing the school and the KPAC, Mrs Crunden said they would do “everything we can” to keep them running.

She added: “We’ve had some fantastic support and we’ve had to really overcome things for our girls.

“We’ve done it before so nothing will stop us to do everything we can to do it again.”

The sale of the building could also result in car parking issues in the village.

The site currently has around 30 parking spaces, used by parents and villagers alike, and in 2017 was also designated as the parking for a new house and the KPAC at 25 Swan Street following the conversion of the Catholic Church.

Preliminary proposals put forward by the borough council in February say two of the spaces would remain public.

Borough council leader Ken Rhatigan (Con, Tadley North, Kingsclere and Baughurst) said although the building was going up in value, it wasn’t bringing in enough income.

He added he hoped the dance school would be able to purchase the building but that the council was unable to show favouritism.

He said: “It’s going up in capital value but the income streams from it aren’t meeting our responsibility to make sure it’s a safe environment for the tenants to use.

“We have to be open and transparent – we can’t favour one person over another because we have the public purse to look after.

“We’d hope they’d see in their long-term business plans it’s worth buying and that relationship will continue for people to use it.”

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