After years of stalled redevelopment proposals, Herefordshire Council has said it is ready to hand over Hereford Butter Market.
Today (Mon) the council has confirmed that it is "seeking expressions of interest" in the site's redevelopment.
Hereford City Council is backing the move but - on cost analysis alone - won't be be taking the market on itself.
Councillor Patricia Morgan, cabinet member for corporate services, said that while the council had explored a number of market hall style redevelopment options for the Buttermarket over recent years, none have proved viable enough to take forward.
"To move the redevelopment forward, we are seeking expressions of interest from organisations who wish to present proposals for the site. There is also the potential for a freehold disposal of the site if the right circumstances are presented," she said.
Herefordshire Council began backing away from a £3m plus redevelopment the Buttermarket in September last year.
Then, the council’s cabinet removed recommendations committing the council to that redevelopment if the Buttermarket could not be transferred to Hereford City Council or “other interested parties.”
But members were warned that the city council was “very cautious” about any takeover when its operating budget was compared to that of the Buttermarket.
And a Buttermarket in the hands of private sector shareholders would be a
hard sell, members heard.
The council has been is actively negotiating a transfer of the ownership,
operation and future redevelopment of the Buttermarke for some time.
At that meeting in September cabinet was expected to commit the council to continuing negotiations but on the basis that it would take on the redevelopment – funded through further borrowing – if a transfer could not be agreed.
Instead, cabinet removed recommendations relating to the council’s responsibility for the redevelopment should talks fail.
Built in 1860, the Buttermarket market has suffered from limited capital investment over recent years and the building requires substantial investment to stay open.
The present freehold valuation of the site is estimated at approximately £1m, with freehold disposal estimated at £1.25m
In 2011, the then Hereford Futures was asked to bring forward a financially viable refurbishment scheme.
The then cabinet member for highways, transportation and waste approved the appointment of Wrenvridge-Trebor LLP as the preferred developer.
A resulting feasibility study offered a number of options for consideration,
but Hereford Futures indicated that a recommendation to finance redevelopment through borrowing would mean Wrenbridge-Trebor could not be appointed as it would breach European procurement processes that the project was subject to.
The council is sustaining annual losses against its budgeted income stream
from the Buttermarket.
An estimate for the 2013/14 income budget for the Buttermarket was £273,000 against a spending budget of around £150,000.
Further annual costs associated with maintenance and repairs were pitched at between £25k-£35k based on average
At the time, the council was criticised for spending sums on perpetually planning the Buttermarket's refurbishment over recent years that could have seen the work completed.
For more see this week's Hereford Times