Sun, 09 Aug 2015
THATCHAM Conservatives have announced that the Priory is likely to be sold at a loss, spelling the end of the Liberal Democrat plan to use the building for community use.
The Conservatives voted to seek formal evaluations for the Grade-II listed building at an extraordinary meeting to discuss the project’s future on Tuesday.
Councillors viewed a breakdown of the costs for completing the project; making savings by reducing the scope of the works; and killing the project.
The then Liberal Democrat-controlled town council purchased the Grade-II listed building from West Berkshire Council for £400,000 in 2009.
An estimated £815,000 price has been given for refurbishing the building and around £300,000 has been spent on work so far.
And £740,000 has been borrowed from the government’s public works loan board to fund the project.
Speaking at the meeting Roger Croft (Con, Thatcham South and Crookham) said the refurbished building had received a market appraisal of between £625,000 and £650,000; resulting in a loss of around £600,000.
Mr Croft said the previous administration “had done a fine job of destroying Thatcham residents’ money”, adding that the Conservatives wanted to carry out a formal valuation “to see how much value had been destroyed”.
Leader of Thatcham’s Liberal Democrat opposition Lee Dillon (Thatcham North) said that another valuation was not needed as the council’s plan would deliver a building for community use.
Mr Croft also said that the timetable had slipped from December to January and that the price had soared above the original estimate, with a “staggering” contingency fund of £400.
“The contingency was destroyed when they went through the door,” he said, adding that the Conservatives would do “everything in their power” to keep the price down.
He also claimed the Lib Dems had started working on the project just days before the May elections.
But Mr Dillon responded that West Berkshire Council had delayed the plans and accused Mr Croft of “making insinuations” from the chair.
“If you’re going to chair, at least chair it impartially,” Mr Dillon said.
“I find it hard to be impartial when you have destroyed £1.2m of Thatcham residents’ money,” Mr Croft replied.
Mr Croft said the first block of Government cash was running out and that another £500,000 would be needed to finish the building, with “a cheaper and more flexible option” being to borrow from West Berkshire Council; particularly as it was likely that the building would be sold.
The recommendation to seek a formal valuation on the building will go before the Conservative-dominated council at 6.45pm on Monday.