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Yousuf Bhailok claims he tried to buy Preston Guild Hall for £1m

Posted on - 9th July, 2024 - 7:00am | Author - | Posted in - Politics, Preston Council, Preston Guild Hall, Preston News
Looking up at the foyer of the Guild Hall venue Pic: Blog Preston
Looking up at the foyer of the Guild Hall venue Pic: Blog Preston

One of Preston’s richest businesspeople claims he was shunned when it came to the future of the Guild Hall.

Yousuf Bhailok, who stood in the recent general election, has revealed he tried to buy the venue and strike a deal with the city council.

His comments come as Blog Preston revealed the city council has lost £3.4million since taking back control of the building in 2019.

Read more: ‘Death-trap’ empty Winckley Square offices a ‘blight’ on famous suffragettes memory

Mr Bhailok – who owns numerous properties and swathes of land across the city – says he was one of the bidders in 2014.

He said: “Of course they decided to go with Simon Rigby and we know what happened there. But I offered to buy the building for £1m.

“My idea was that I would run the conferencing and banqueting side, and then we would find someone experienced at putting on events to come in and operate that side. But they made their decision.”

Pressed on whether he was still interested in the Guild Hall building, Mr Bhailok said he would be open to a deal.

Yousuf Bhailok said he remained open to looking at the building Pic: Blog Preston

He told Blog Preston: “I wouldn’t say no, I think it is important Preston has a venue. I remain interested in any business opportunity.”

Blog Preston approached Preston City Council for comment on Mr Bhailok’s claims and potential interest.

Deputy leader councillor Martyn Rawlinson, who has the future of the Guild Hall within his portfolio, said: “The council’s priority is to eradicate all asbestos and RAAC from the building and to bring the Guild Hall Foyer back into use for culture and arts purposes in the city centre.”

Read more: See the latest redevelopment news in and around Preston

Asked whether they would consider a deal with Mr Bhailok, the city council declined to respond and did not address the decision made in 2014. The current Labour leader and deputy leader of the city council were both within the city council’s cabinet when the Rigby deal was struck – with the building sold to the late Mr Rigby for £1 and the city council retaining the freehold of the site.

Councillor Matthew Brown has previously said the Guild Hall saga – and its continued closure – has caused ‘pretty serious reputational damage’ for the city council.

Read more: Preston City Council leader Matthew Brown on Guild Hall, Preston Model, public scrutiny and more

Mr Bhailok’s comments come after an extensive interview with Blog Preston where he publicly criticised the city council’s regeneration plans and planning department – which saw the city’s director of housing and environment fire back with criticism of ‘unviable’ private-sector schemes.

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