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No Sale plans for Drybridge House, Bridges Community Centre says council

AN HISTORIC home that is used as a community centre and charity base isn’t up for sale, a council has said – despite an official document saying it has “development potential”. 

Drybridge House in Monmouth has been listed in a property review compiled by Monmouthshire County Council as part of its upcoming budget. 
The 352-year-old building is also known as the Bridges Centre as the charity, which supports the wellbeing of the local community, is based there, while it is also used as a wedding venue, conference centre and gallery. 

A council document states it has “development potential for hotel/residential use” while its community activities, such as a coffee space and meeting rooms, could be relocated to Monmouth’s Market Hall. 

The cash-strapped council, which must find £11.4 million of cuts and savings in the upcoming financial year, has identified a potential saving of £215,000 through reviewing its use of buildings including potential sales, with similar savings in future years. 
Members of the council’s place scrutiny committee, who have been examining the Labour cabinet’s budget proposals, raised concerns that could mean the council is planning to sell the house, as well as Monmouth’s Market Hall and the Melville Theatre in Abergavenny, among other buildings. 

Llantilio Crossenny member Ian Chandler, said further information was needed. 
He asked: “What consultation has taken place with those charities and users of those centres? Because to talk about disposing of Drybridge House, the Bridges Community Centre in Monmouth, which is an incredibly well used and valuable resource, and suggesting some of the activities might be transferred to the Market Hall, which actually also appears as an asset that is to be disposed of – so you are trying to count that twice – is really of concern.” 

The Green Party councillor also said the proposals raised doubts about the budget as it appears to be dependent on future sales that may not occur and noted the Tudor Centre in Abergavenny, which the council had intended to sell before agreeing to defer any decision until a social services review is completed, was among the buildings listed. 

Cllr Rachel Garrick, the cabinet member responsible for the budget, said there is no plan to sell Drybridge House: “We are not looking at disposal but looking at income potential. The lease is due for renewal and we are looking at putting it on a more commercial footing.” 
According to the budget document the Bridges currently pays a peppercorn rent and the lease will expire in 2024. 

Deputy chief executive Peter Davies said Bridges had approached the council and added: “I think they themselves recognise there are aspects of how the building is used which probably falls more so into commercial use. I think its recognised, by them as well, when we go into lease renewal we will need to renegotiate on that footing.” 
Mr Davies also added that the Market Hall is in a similar situation and isn’t being considered for disposal but the council believes it can secure new tenants and boost its income. 
Mr Davies and Cllr Garrick both also said any sales would have to go through a “proper process” regardless of how they have been listed in the budget plans. 

The Melville Theatre is leased to the theatre group and the document says a decision is due to be made on longstanding plans for a community asset transfer. 
Other buildings among the 21 listed included the Air Cadet base in Caldicot, which will be vacated when the group moves to new premises, and a former school caretaker’s bungalow in Thornwell as well as the former Abergavenny Library in Baker Street.

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