Meeting Held To Discuss Future Of Ely Court

PUBLISHED: 09:43 11 March 2011

Ely Magistrates Court

Ely Magistrates Court

Archant

“The Government is encouraging community-based organisations and volunteers to play an increasing role in improving their local areas, as part of their vision for the Big Society.”

COMMUNITY groups have held talks with the owners of Ely’s historic courthouse about a potential takeover.

Her Majesty’s Court Service (HMCS) met 15 representatives from Ely Civic Society and Ely Perspective on Monday to discuss preserving the 150-year-old building’s legacy for the future.

The two organisations, who were supported by other city groups, want to get their hands on the Grade II Listed Building to create a “resource for the community” but have been warned by the owners it will take some time.

The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) has to work with English Heritage to carry out an assessment of the Sessions House and its Listed Building status after it closes on March 24 before it can be passed to the next generation.

And Justice Minister Jonathan Djanogly has warned that an advertisement for buyers in local journals will be focused on finding the highest bidder.

“HMCS will have to have regard to HM Treasury guidelines, which state that the Department is obliged to obtain the best possible price in disposing of properties.”

Ely Society chairman Yvonne Thresh said: “It is very early days.

“There is a lot of work to be done when thinking about the future of the court. This was a preliminary meeting to explore the possibilities.”

Government officials told potential bidders at the meeting to study English Heritage’s Pillars of the Community publication before embarking on any future bid.

It points out: “The Government is encouraging community-based organisations and volunteers to play an increasing role in improving their local areas, as part of their vision for the Big Society.”

However to realise that dream, volunteers would have to go through nine stages which include raising finance, agreeing terms of purchase and managing long term viability.

“Sometimes acquiring a building can be a really expensive thing to do,” Ms Thresh has admitted.

“The difficulty is the amount of work involved and whether we have got the resources and volunteers able to do it.”


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