Reading Conservatives have welcomed the decision taken by Reading Borough Council last night (March 8th) to officially approve a new bid to the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) to acquire the empty Reading Gaol site.
Hailing the cross-party consensus shown to reach this stage ahead of the MoJ deadline of March 15th for the new bid's submission, the Leader of the Conservative Opposition on Reading Borough Council, Councillor Jeanette Skeats, said the town now had the opportunity to secure a "marvellous legacy for future generations."
Cllr Skeats, on behalf of the Conservative Group on RBC, said: ‘We welcome and fully support the renewed bid by RBC to acquire Reading Gaol. We particularly appreciate the intention to create a cross party Task & Finish Group to steer the project if the bid is successful.
We recognise that the council's leadership is having to balance the resources needed for the bid against other spending priorities. However, we believe that it is a vital function of the council to provide civic leadership for a project such as this and the site when completed will be a marvellous legacy for future generations in the town centre.'
The preliminary terms of a conditional bid by the Council to transform the empty prison into a beacon of arts, heritage and culture for Reading, were agreed by Councillors in the closed session of the Policy Committee meeting. The bid will now be submitted by March 15th, in line with the period of exclusivity given to the Council by the MoJ.
The MoJ’s process for the sale of the historic gaol remains a competitive process, which means the value of the Council’s bid and the conditions of the bid remain commercially confidential for now.
The Policy Committee report highlighted both the unique opportunity given to the Council to secure the site for the benefit of Reading, its culture and its economy, as well as the risks and uncertainties associated with a formal Council bid.
After consideration, Councillors agreed to submit a formal conditional bid to the MoJ to purchase the prison site. If successful in its bid, the Council will seek a private sector partner to undertake the comprehensive regeneration.
The final value of the Council’s bid - which will be funded through capacity available in its capital programme - will be informed by the completion of a detailed development appraisal.