Simon Rigby has been stripped of ownership of Preston Guild Hall.Advertisement
Preston City Council has stepped in to take on the building and venue after saying there had been ‘significant breaches of the lease agreement’.
Mr Rigby had made an announcement during Thursday (20 June) that he was wanting to reopen the venue using a new charitable vehicle.
He closed the venue in late May and placed Preston Guild Hall Limited into administration in early June, with the lost of dozens of jobs and the cancelling of dozens of planned shows and events.
Mr Rigby said he had been in negotiations with operator VMS Live to take on the venue but a deal had not advanced fast enough so he was mothballing the venue. He referenced the death of the venue management firm’s chief executive as one of the reasons for the slow down in negotiations.
But his plan announced this week – to have a Guild Hall Charity run the venue with only him and one other as trustees – was rebuked by the administrator, Beverley Budsworth, who said she did not recognise the information and plan issued by Mr Rigby.
The city council, who decided to sell the venue to Mr Rigby in 2014 for £1, has now decided to trigger claw-back clauses to take back control of the entire building and venue.
Using a special urgency decision the 999-year lease has been transferred from the administrator to the city council, effective from first-thing on Friday (21 June).
During Friday morning all businesses within the Guild Hall centre will have to sign new leases with the city council, as their agreements with Mr Rigby are considered to be null and void.
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The city council says at this stage it is not looking to reopen the venue itself and will take on negotiations to find a new operator for the building. The council say they hope to ‘ensure a seamless transition and minimal disruption’.
It is not know how much the city council has paid to take on the lease.
Mr Rigby says he will be seeking legal advice following the decision.
All three political parties, Labour, the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives supported the decision to reclaim the venue from Simon Rigby.
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Leader of Preston City Council councillor Matthew Brown said: “Over recent weeks it has become abundantly clear that it was necessary for the city Council to intervene and re-gain control of the property.
“We are absolutely committed to finding the best possible solution for the future of the Guild Hall, and our ultimate hope is that it is back up and running as an entertainment venue as soon as possible.
“As I have said before, the decision to transfer the Guild Hall into Mr Rigby’s ownership was the only viable decision we could make at the time, with the
information we had and the stark financial situation we were in. We acted in good faith and have been let down by the unacceptable behaviour of Mr Rigby.
“As we move forward, we are putting considerable effort into supporting the re-opening and successful future of Preston Guild Hall, but can only work within the current budget position of the Council. We continue to be ambitious for the role of the Guild Hall within the city and are confident for the extensive regeneration that is currently taking place across Preston.”
Preston Conservative leader councillor Sue Whittam said: “It is disappointing that taking this decision was necessary, but it is clearly the right step for Preston City Council to take.
“We are united in our commitment to find an affordable solution for Preston Guild Hall that meets the needs of the city.”
Preston Liberal Democrats leader councillor John Potter said: “We have to view this as a new opportunity for the city. Preston City Council has made the best decision it could in the current circumstances and now we have to work together to find a viable solution that is in the best interests of the city, the council and its residents.”
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The city council says Preston Guild Hall Limited remains in administration and all enquiries for those seeking refunds or with questions about previously advertised shows must contact the administrator.
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What do you think about the decision? Let us know in the comments below