The ownership of The Mill Arts Centre has been transferred between two councils for £1 with promises of securing its long-term future.
Cherwell District Council (CDC) agreed to buy Banbury’s only multi-use arts centre from Oxfordshire County Council (OCC) yesterday (Monday, December 17), knowing £250,000 is needed for repairs.
The deal, which provides The Mill Arts Centre Trust with a long-term lease to support external grant applications, was ratified by the county council’s cabinet this afternoon (Tuesday).
Trust chairman Gwen Van Spijk said: “The Mill has been through a process of significant change and development over the past five years and both OCC and CDC have been very much a part of this journey.
“However we are very excited about this new chapter and the prospect of deepening and extending our relationship with CDC to secure and develop The Mill for future generations.
“The long lease this new arrangement enables is vital for our fundraising, signifying our stability as an organisation and demonstrating the confidence that our key stakeholders have in us to deliver against our plans and ambitions for The Mill.
“This is more evidence of Cherwell’s commitment to invest in and regenerate the Banbury Canalside area, and we look forward to seeing The Mill flourish for many, many years to come.”
The trust has been leasing The Mill on a peppercorn rent off the county council since its arts subsidy was cut in 2013 with around £42,000 of funding from the district council per year.
Cherwell buying the arts centre would ensure its future, which ties in with the council’s redevelopment of Canalside and Castle Quay Shopping Centre, the officer’s report says.
The four-storey building was valued at £275,000 due to the need for repairs in 2019/20 and a restriction for it to only be used for ‘community and cultural purposes’.
Cllr Andrew McHugh, Cherwell’s lead member for health and wellbeing, said: “The Mill has a vibrant and diverse programme of performing arts, classes and workshops for the community.
“It’s a vital part of the district’s cultural life, and this transfer to Cherwell will help the trust continue its great work delivering for local people.”
Former Banbury MP Sir Tony Baldry, who is a patron of The Mill, said the deal was ‘very good news’ and that its future looks secure.
Cllr Eddie Reeves, county council cabinet member for property, added: “Discussions about the future of The Mill Arts Centre have been taking place for a considerable period of time – pre-dating the new partnership that exists between the county council and Cherwell.
“Everybody is therefore delighted to have reached a stage at which a viable proposal has been approved.”