Preston Guild Hall was sold to Simon Rigby for just £1.Advertisement
The local multi-millionaire was handed the keys to the venue in mid October after extensive negotiations with Preston City Council.
Now city council leader councillor Peter Rankin has given details of the deal for the building.
He said: “Earlier this year we sat down with Simon and started talking to him seriously about his vision for the Guild Hall and how he could make it work.
“This included handing over the building for a nominal sum, approved by our external auditors.”
The Guild Hall complex was costing the city council more than £1 million a year to subsidise.
Councillor Rankin defended the sale of the building, on what would be prime development land in the city centre, saying it was a “fantastic deal”.
He said: “We received a handful of proposals, most of which wanted some sort of annual subsidy from the council to keep the Guild Hall running as well as leaving us with the continued upkeep of a tired building that needed considerable investment. The proposal from Simon Rigby was different.”
Simon Rigby has agreed to invest £1 million into the venue and the Guild Hall Arcade, which is seeing two new restaurants opened and a coffee shop already open.
He has also stumped up £250,000 for an arts trust fund which is due to support arts and culture events in the city.
Mr Rigby spoke extensively to Blog Preston on the day he received he keys to the Guild Hall.
He said: “I’ve saved this venue from tragedy. There’s no other way of describing it if this place had closed.
“The Guild Hall is a very special venue for the city. I visited here so many times growing up and I felt it only right to ensure it is kept open for others to enjoy.”
Councillor Rankin said: “The Guild Hall was costing the council over one million pounds a year to run.
“This was unsustainable and couldn’t continue in a situation where, because of cuts in our government grant of over 50 per cent since 2010, we have had to look at all our spending, including options for the Guild Hall.
“I and my cabinet colleagues have wanted to do everything possible to keep the Guild Hall operating in Preston. But make no mistake, without Simon’s intervention the Guild Hall would have closed in March 2015, which would have been a tremendous loss to the city.”
The sale of the Guild Hall follows the transfer of Preston Bus Station to Lancashire County Council during the summer, which again was completed for the sale of £1.
Preston City Council has to find savings of £3.6 million a year by 2018.
What do you think of the sale? A good deal? Bad deal? Let us know in the comments below