Malvern Civic Society has been interested in securing the future of The Grange for the benefit of the community, and to that end we were successful in having the building listed as an Asset of Community Value (ACV) under the provisions of the Localism Act. Since then, a steering group has been set up with the involvement of the Civic Society and other interested community parties. Its aim has been to develop proposals for a partnership scheme jointly with Malvern Hills District Council (MHDC), and we have been engaged in discussions with senior members of the Council with that in mind, and with funding bodies about obtaining grants to support such a project. It is envisaged that once arrangements have been established, the enterprise would be entirely self-financing, providing sufficient income to maintain the building in good order and with no money required from the Council to support it. It is likely to take further time, however, before all the details can be agreed.
MHDC did inform us recently that there had been an approach by a third party for the short-term use of the premises, and that as a result, discussions had been taking place about the granting of a two-year lease. I was reassured to learn, however, that it was not considered that this would jeopardise any future collaborative relationship with MHDC of the kind which we had been discussing: rather, it would give us the opportunity to develop a detailed scheme and endeavour to secure appropriate funds to enable us to proceed with the project we had in mind.
The steering group feels that in order to make progress with funding bodies, we should need to be able to put forward an undertaking that, in the event of a project proceeding, MHDC would make available The Grange on the basis that it would gift the property to an appropriately established trust (preferably with MHDC representation), lease it to such a body for a minimum period of 25 years, or make a formal commitment that if appropriate funds were allocated, MHDC would not withdraw use of The Grange for the agreed purposes within a specified period (again, likely to be of the order of 25 years, or a lesser period if the project were to fail). The arrangements which MHDC has recently concluded with Malvern Town Football Club over leasing their ground to them for 25 years to facilitate their own approaches to funding bodies are exactly what we ourselves are seeking here.
The Grange — a Grade II listed building and itself of historic importance — in addition to providing some commercial office accommodation, would operate as a hub for tourism and the local community to promote the area’s major resources and history. It would show-case, for example, the work of our scientists, the historic Water Cure, the Malvern Theatres , our Elgar connections, the Malvern Hills Trust and its work in caring for the hills and their heritage, and it would also incorporate into this the legacy issues which the Council needs to be able to demonstrate following on from the Heritage Lottery Fund-supported Route to the Hills project. One possible way forward with the project we continue to think worthy of investigation is to incorporate The Grange scheme with the Council’s own proposals in the current 5-year plan to seek Green Flag status for Priory Park: there is, as we know, always a need to be able to demonstrate that there would be strong community benefits and facilities available in such proposals – and The Grange would be a splendid way of greatly contributing to this.
Clive Hooper, Chairman, Malvern Civic Society.