Call to halt handover of Llanthony Secunda Priory
HANDING over complete control of Llanthony Secunda Priory to a trust could be halted after councillors expressed their fears over the move.
Gloucester City Council had been preparing to hand over its access rights to the historic priory, near to Gloucestershire College, to the Llanthony Secunda Priory Trust.
But Liberal Democrat councillors have 'called in' the decision and demanded that the trust present their plans to the council first to allay fears that public access could be restricted.
At the moment the council can buy back the priory if the trust fails at a cost of £1 at any time within 21 years. They also have access to the site 20 days per year.
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But trust bosses say they need to break free from the council if their £3million bid for cash from the Heritage Lottery Fund is to be successful.
Trustee Jeremy Williamson, who is also vice-principal of the neighbouring college, said: "The trust has in six years raised £300,000 for the priory and I can't see what the problem is.
"The priory has very much been opened to the public for people to enjoy during our time.
"The trust is, however, very happy to discuss its plans and we await our invitation to go before the council."
The trust's bid for funding is expected to be considered by the Heritage Lottery Fund on November 19.
Lib Dems want reassurances before any decision is made.
Councillor Jeremy Hilton, leader of the city's Liberal Democrat group, said: "It is an important asset to the city and the covenant means we can secure the priory through a £1 buy-back if the trust were to go bust.
"But now these changes would mean that it would land in the hands of the receivers and we would have a big struggle over the future of it.
"We need a proper presentation about what the trust is planning to do before this goes ahead. I'm not saying what is being proposed is absolutely wrong but I am unconvinced that we will not regret this in the future."
Gloucester City Council said the call-in had been approved and would be discussed by councillors at the Overview and Scrutiny Committee meeting on October 14.
Council leader Paul James previously said: "This is an important building to us. It has come a long way in recent years.
"The Trust has shown competence. It is made up of very capable people. We can do this transfer with a degree of confidence. I do not believe that the trust will fail."