Bought for £1
THE city council is to buy one of Devonport's most historic buildings for £1 and give it a new lease on life.
Council leader Tudor Evans admits the project to bring Devonport Market Hall back to life will be risky but rewarding. The building was annexed by the Ministry of Defence half a century ago and remained hidden behind the Dockyard wall until 2006.
Now the council has agreed to buy the hall and the land around it for £1. The Homes and Communities Agency, which owns the building, will also give the council a dowry of £2.57million to develop the building, the city's Cabinet heard yesterday.
It is estimated the cost of renovation will be £2.3million. The council does not know if the dowry funding will cover a final cost and how much will be needed for maintenance before any renovation starts.
The Cabinet was told yesterday that the council could open up the building for a social enterprise venture.
Council leader Tudor Evans said: "It is a building of significance to the city and I think it is right we are going to take it on. "This is a big job and a potential series of calamities. It is going to be difficult and complicated to regenerate, but presents a real opportunity for the future of Devonport.
"We are going in with our eyes open and a real understanding of how difficult this project is going to be to carry off, but the rewards are going to be fantastic."
Cllr Chris Penberthy (Lab, St Peter and the Waterfront) said: "To expect a community group to take it on at short notice would have led to failure."
The former Devonport Market Hall building was designed by James Piers St Aubyn and built in 1852. It has a distinctive Italianate clock tower. The hall has three iron-trussed roofs with iron lattice balconies supported on iron columns together with a large central staircase. It is in a poor state of repair. There has been a market on the site since 1760.
Cllr Evans said: "This is an exceptional opportunity to bring a landmark building back to life and under community control.
"Over the last few years there have been dramatic changes to Devonport. However, there has been no commercial interest in the Market Hall."
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