NEW proposals for the future of Ledbury's most iconic buildings could lead to a lift being installed into the seventeenth century Market House, for disabled access.
It is the same idea which was considered and rejected a decade ago by the town council, following public outcry.
But this time the proposal comes from a Ledbury and District Civic Society team.
The team is behind the "Ledbury Places" project, with the aim of "securing the long-term future of some of Ledbury’s most important buildings", including the Market House, the Barrett Browning Institute, the Town Council offices, the Heritage Centre, the Butchers Row Museum and the Burgage Hall.
These buildings could be restored and enhanced with Heritage Lottery funding of up to £2.5m, as a pilot project for the UK, supported by Central Government.
Cllr Martin Eager, who opposed the installation of a Market House lift ten years ago, now says the issue should be looked into again, and to miss out on such funding would be "the crime of the century".
He added: "We have to make better use of the Market House. It could be used as a museum as well as a meeting place. These options need to be considered."
The town council offices in Church Lane the Market House are owned by the town council; but at a meeting last week town councillors heard they would be asked to consider moving out to new premises, possibly the Barrett Browning Institute, and pay a contribution towards costs, as yet unspecified.
Cllr Tony Bradford said: "I don't see the sense of this; the logistics. The Institute, for example, would have to be totally refurbished and staff would not have parking. I don't see how that's going to improve on the buildings we are already in .
"There are a lot of questions to be answered. This should not be a rush job. Why should the town council move out of buildings it owns?"
For the last six months, backed with Central Government funding, the Ledbury Places team has been carrying out a feasibility study to establish how the six buildings can best be used.
Now public consultation is underway
Options for discussion include the installation of a lift in the Market House, to provide disabled access to the first floor; and converting the first floor of the Heritage Centre or part of the Town Council building into holiday accommodation.
Cllr Bradford questioned how turning town council offices into holiday flats "is in the best interests of the community", especially because the premises contain the Elizabethan Painted Room, a tourist attraction.
Mr Clive said feedback from the local community is now vital to ensure the final plans fully represent what is best for the town.
He said:“Our aim is not only to preserve these six beautiful buildings, but also to ensure they are put to fuller use in order to safeguard their long-term future.
“Although we have done a huge amount of work and have tried to consult with the community throughout this project.
“Local people – or anyone who would like to offer their thoughts on this project - can look at the various options by logging on to the Ledbury Places section of the Civic Society website at www.ledburycivicsociety.org/ledburyplaces.html, or by viewing the display boards in the Market House on Tuesday, February 4 or in the town’s library in the Barrett Browning Institute thereafter.
“Feedback can be given online via the Civic Society website or alternatively by filling out the forms that can be found with the display boards. In addition, you can also have your say on this project via our Twitter feed @LedburyPlaces, or by logging onto our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/ledburyplaces.