AN HISTORIC house that is used as a community centre and charity base isn’t up for sale, a council has said – despite an official document saying it has “development potential”.
Drybridge House in Monmouth has been listed in a property review compiled by Monmouthshire County Council as part of its upcoming budget.alongside the town’s Market Hall.
The 352-year-old building is also known as the Bridges Centre as the charity, which supports the wellbeing of the local community, is based there, while it is also used as a wedding venue, conference centre and gallery.
A council document states it has “development potential for hotel/residential use” while its community activities, such as a coffee space and meeting rooms, could be relocated to the Market Hall.
The cash-strapped council, which must find £11.4m of cuts and savings in the next financial year, has identified a potential saving of £215,000 through reviewing its use of buildings including potential sales, with similar savings in future years.
Members of the council’s place scrutiny committee, who have been examining the Labour cabinet’s budget proposals, raised concerns that could mean the council is planning to sell the house, as well as the Market Hall and the Melville Theatre in Abergavenny, among other buildings.
Llantilio Crossenny member Ian Chandler (Green) asked: “What consultation has taken place with those charities and users of those centres?
“Because to talk about disposing of Drybridge House, the Bridges Community Centre in Monmouth, which is an incredibly well used and valuable resource, and suggesting some of the activities might be transferred to the Market Hall, which actually also appears as an asset that is to be disposed of – so you are trying to count that twice – is really of concern.”
He also said the proposals raised doubts about the budget as it appears to be dependent on future sales that may not occur and noted the Tudor Centre in Abergavenny, which the council had intended to sell before agreeing to defer any decision until a social services review, was among the buildings listed.
Cllr Rachel Garrick, the cabinet member responsible for the budget, said: “We are not looking at disposal but looking at income potential. The lease is due for renewal and we are looking at putting it on a more commercial footing.”
The budget document, says Bridges pays a peppercorn rent and the lease will expire in 2024.
Deputy chief executive Peter Davies said Bridges had approached the council and added: “I think they themselves recognise there are aspects of how the building is used which probably falls more so into commercial use.
“I think it’s recognised, by them as well, when we go into lease renewal we will need to renegotiate on that footing.”
Mr Davies also added that the Market Hall is in a similar situation and isn’t being considered for disposal but the council believes it can secure new tenants and boost its income.