A disused building in Haverhill could become a heritage centre for the town if a county councillor is able to realise his ambitious plans.
Cllr Tony Brown wants to transform the old Corn Exchange, in Withersfield Road, into a community centre which could feature a museum, café, gallery and more based on people’s suggestions.
On Tuesday (September 3), he won the support of Haverhill Town Council in backing his scheme, which would likely take three to five years to come to fruition.
“We’re hoping to procure the building for the community and our vision is to end up with a community heritage centre involving a museum and gallery, which the building lends itself so well to as it has massive side windows and a big open area,” said the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) councillor for Haverhill East and Kedington.
“It’s so much better than anything nearby and would save a much loved building which has stood empty for seven or eight years and has stuff growing inside it and gutters leaking, so it won’t be long before it’s in a state of terminal decline. We don’t have many buildings of historical importance in the town and this is Grade II listed so it’s a shame it’s going this way.”
Cllr Brown will speak to umbrella group ONE Haverhill about his plans and then aim to trigger the community right to buy, which if successful would give a group six months to table a bid for the building during which time it could not be sold to a private company.
At Tuesday’s (3) town council meeting at the arts centre, town clerk Will Austin explained that it would cost between £170,000 and £250,000 to buy the building – likely the higher sum – and that it would then cost close to £500,000 to refurbish it.
However, Cllr Brown is optimistic that cash can be saved on the whopping refurbishment bill by having members of the community volunteer to help out.
“We’d aim to involve as many volunteers as we can, and I think the value of getting people involved as it’s a community facility would outweigh the value of getting it done quickly at a higher cost,” he said.
“I hope there’s the community interest to justify the project as the town has never had a museum and I think we’re the only town in Suffolk withy more than 10,000 people without a museum, and by 2031 we’ll have 37,000 people.
“With such an open airy hall we could have exhibitions and functions, and that’s the debate that has to go to the community to see what they would really want in that building, and all I’m looking for now is that commitment going forward.
“It would also encourage people to the west end of town – the arts centre is a good venue but the gallery is basically the café and doesn’t lend itself to an exhibition, and the town deserves better.”
For all the latest news see today’s (Thursday, September 5) Echo.