LEDBURY has taken an important step towards securing a £2.8m grant for the future of its most iconic buildings.
The town council is backing the Ledbury Places Business Plan for the "multiple asset transfer" of six properties, including the the Barrett Browning Institute, the Heritage Centre, the Town Council offices, the Butcher Row House Museum, Burgage Hall and the Market House itself.
But the town council gave its assent without knowing the rent it would have to pay if, as is proposed, it should move from its present offices in Church Lane to the second floor of the Elizabeth Barrett Browning Institute.
And town councillors also backed the plan in the knowledge that several appendices had been held back from their sight, as "confidential", - despite the town council being the owner of two buildings in the asset transfer package - the town council offices and the Market House.
The Market House would become the main heritage centre, with the installation of a lift; and the existing town council offices would be used for a mix of meetings, weddings, holiday lets, residential flats and a work studio.
Cllr Liz Harvey said: "If we haven't got sight of these appendices, can the town council members who are part of the Ledbury Places project give assurances that the appendices contain nothing that should be of concern to the town council, at this stage of the project?"
Ledbury's mayor, Cllr Bob Barnes, speaking from the chair, said the missing appendices had "no significant impact on the town council".
"It's nothing for us to be concerned about," he said.
But concerns about the missing documents were also raised by former town mayor, Cllr Terry Widdows, who voted against supporting the plan.
Cllr Phill Bettington asked whether town councillors who were involved with Ledbury Places should be voting on the issue.
Cllr Clive Jupp, who put together the Ledbury Places presentation together with deputy mayor, Cllr Rob Yeoman said: "Legally, they are perfectly entitled to vote, as council representatives".
Cllr Tony Bradford, who abstained, was concerned about the possible cost to the town council.
He asked: "If rent for the Elizabeth Barrett Browning Institute was £50,000 a year, would we still be interested?"
Cllr Jupp said: "I have said before, there is no way we want to pay rent for the Institute."
This is because the town council is an owner of two properties in the proposed asset transfer package.
And Cllr Barnes said: "The devil is in the detail, - as and when the grant is approved."
The town council support, given at Extraordinary Meeting of the town council last week, was crucial for Ledbury Places, which was formed by the Civic Society, to apply for a Heritage Lottery Grant of between £2.3m and £2.8m to convert and/or enhance the six properties and secure their long-term use.
The Ledbury Places scheme is a Government-backed pilot project, and Cllr Barnes said he was "quite confident" that the grant, to be applied for by an August 25th deadline, would be forthcoming.
He said: "This is a national pilot project, and this will be a beacon for the rest of the country to take up similar projects. It could bring bring significant economic benefits to the town, and that is a positive message to send out.
"Central Government is watching. The Country is watching."