The future of Abingdon Guildhall has been secured after the Vale of White Horse District Council agreed to transfer the building to Abingdon Town Council.
The deal, which will see the keys to the Guildhall and the adjacent Roysse Court handed over to the town council on 1 April 2011, means that the community facility, with its historic paintings and artefacts that already belong to the town, is now secure for the people of Abingdon to use and enjoy for many years to come.
The arrangement means that the town council will take control of both buildings and their day to day operation, including the staff currently employed at the site.
The agreement will see a one-off contribution of £1.2 million paid to the town council to fund improvement work that needs to be carried out to the building over the coming years. However, the transfer will also provide a much needed financial boost for the Vale by saving year on year revenue running costs of around £100,000, as well as removing obligations for the buildings’ up keep in the future.
The substantial reduction in government funding to the Vale made it increasingly difficult for the district council to guarantee the future of this fantastic facility.
Under town council management there will be greater opportunities for staff and councillors to work towards reversing the decline in community usage and improving the facilities through the injection of funds for investment.
Abingdon Town Council also has the longer-term option of moving its administrative offices from their current Old Abbey House location (leased from the Vale) over to the Guildhall and Roysse Court when its existing lease runs out, a move which could make a substantial annual saving.
The Abingdon Guildhall is believed to date back to 1563. The oldest part of the building, including the Roysse Room, is listed. In the 1960s the building was extended to include the large Abbey Hall and has been run by the Vale Council since 1974.
Cllr Richard Webber, Vale executive member for Civic Halls, said: “We know that people in Abingdon have been concerned about the future of the Guildhall for some time, so I’m sure that many will be absolutely delighted to hear that the future of this important community facility is now secure. With the support and on‑going commitment of the town council and the people of Abingdon – the building can be best run to the benefit of those that love it most.”
Cllr Lesley Legge, Leader of Abingdon Town Council, said: “I am delighted that this facility returns to town ownership. Short-term improvements will be made and we will be planning for sustainable improvement and development of the facility in the medium and longer term, with the community very much involved. We look forward to the future.”