Tuesday, 05 July 2022
A LISTED building in Henley could be converted into housing in order to safeguard its future.
West Street Store needs £84,000 of repairs over the next five years according to the town council, which owns it.
The Grade II listed property was originally the stables for the old fire station, to which it is attached, but has been rented out for storage for years.
Three years ago, a quinquennial survey highlighted work that was needed to ensure the structure would not deteriorate.
Another survey took place in March and found that intervention was needed within the next 12 months, including the repair and replacement of internal roof timbers and some new roof tiles.
More substantial work would need to follow within three to five years, including repairing the timber frame, removing the modern masonry paint and redecoration and repairing the doors.
The council is investigating different options, which include converting the building to long-term residential use or using it as a workshop, or a gallery space or offices.
Deputy town clerk Cath Adams said it was “logical” to consider using the building to earn income for the council.
Speaking at a meeting of the council’s recreation and amenities committee, she said: “It’s a listed building and the town council has a responsibility for the upkeep.
“If we didn’t look after it South Oxfordshire District Council or the Government could step in and carry out works and then bill us.
“We got a conservation surveyor to carry out a condition survey and they identified approximately £84,000 worth of works that need to be carried out in the next five years to stop it deteriorating further.”
In a report, Ms Adams said none of the eight possible options was “inexpensive”.
She said: “Obviously to bring it into residential use would be the most expensive option, though if the council were to consider renting it there would be an opportunity to apply for section 106 funding towards the cost of the work.
“The quickest option to pay back would be using it as a meeting or function room but as the council already has several meeting and function rooms that are under-utilised that doesn’t seem the most obvious use to go for.
“The next three quickest payback options are the workshop/studio space, residential use for short- or long-term or office use.”
Deputy Mayor Donna Crook, who chaired the meeting, said: “We have a number of community halls in the town which are very much under-utilised.
“There are buildings that need to be better utilised by organisations that could save these halls from going into disrepair so they are not neglected. We need to signpost people to them.”
Councillor Laurence Plant said he favoured using the building as a workshop or studio or for residential long let or as offices.
He added: “Social and affordable rent is something we talk about a lot so my heart leans towards that.” Councillor David Eggleton said: “Whether the council rents or doesn’t rent it out, these buildings should be restored to their former glory anyway.
“There is a lot of work needed at the Old Fire Station Gallery, not just the West Street Store.”
Councillor Glen Lambert asked if the council chose to let the building, would it be putting itself in a “difficult position” when it came to commenting on certain planning applications, such as the one for a Premier Inn at the station.
Town clerk Sheridan Jacklin-Edward replied: “The committee should still comment but it may choose not to comment because of a particular interest.
“I would say with something like the Premier Inn there would be bigger overriding issues that would dwarf any interest in the West Street Store. But with smaller applications for similar things in the area there might perhaps be, yes.”
The committee agreed that the council’s officers should investigate further.
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