One of Ledbury's most iconic buildings, the Barrett Browning Institute, is to be converted into the new home of the Ledbury Poetry Festival, at a cost of £500,000.

Ledbury Places, which owns the building, has already spent £80,000 on structural improvements.

But it will need extensive grant-funding for the conversion, which would include a new entrance off the Homend, a lift to facilitate disabled access, a performance space, office space and a flat.

The flat will be used as a holiday let and to accommodate visiting poets in residence.

Poetry Festival founder trustee, Peter Arscott, said the Festival was "totally committed" to the project, and the Festival's artistic director, Chloe Garner said the Institute would be similar to the 'literature houses' seen in some Germany cities, such as Munich, and which are popular cultural hubs for the community.

If all goes to plan, the Poetry Festival will move from its present base at the Master's House and the Barrett Browning Institute, the town's former library, will be the Festival's new base from 2021.

Mr Arscott said: “This is a project with great potential and we are looking forward to working in partnership with Ledbury Places and other community organisations to make the Barrett Browning Institute building a hive of activity.

"It will benefit so many people in the community and beyond."

But the Festival will eventually need to find upwards of £20K to £25K in rent each year.

Some of the money will come from letting out the flat.

And Mark Waller of Ledbury Places said: "There will be a phased approach to align the actual rent for the Institute with the growth of Ledbury Poetry Festival."

He added: “We are delighted to be partnering with Ledbury Poetry Festival and look forward to returning the Barrett Browning Institute building to its former glory at the centre of our community."

The development is of key importance for Ledbury Places, an charitable organisation which was formed several years ago with the costly task of looking after a number of the market town's iconic buildings.

Mr Waller said: "The charity's direct costs are £15K per annum, for insurance, utilities, fire regulation compliance, governance and so on; and despite the continued support of the Town Council, at £1,000 each year, and income from the Heritage Centre, the charity is losing £10,000 per annum, which cannot continue indefinitely.

"It is critical that we are able to fund future essential repairs for the Barrett Browning Institute (BBI) and The Heritage Centre. We urgently need to begin building a fund for this purpose. This necessitates an annual income of between £30K to £35K.

" Given the size and configuration of the BBI building, it has to be the principal source of charitable income. The BBI building alone costs £3K per year in insurance and utilities."

He revealed that Ledbury Places had only received £500 pounds in revenue from the youth drop-in centre during the past three years.

The drop-in centre will need to move out when works starts on converting the building next July.

But Mr Waller said: "Everyone involved recognises that the youth group need a space that is dedicated to them, a 'safe' space. This space also needs to accommodate kit, - table football, snooker table and so on, but it is only used for a few hours a week, so that means it is under utilised and makes it difficult for this space to be shared with other groups.

"We are all working hard to find a solution."

Up to 70 youngsters attend the drop-in centre over two days each week.

The total cost of the BBI conversion - £500,000, will include re-roofing and repairing of the clock tower, which is the Ledbury clock tower and an eye-catching feature of the late Victorian building.