Popular outdoor activity centre Grendon Hall could be turned into a wedding venue after it closes next month.
Northamptonshire County Council, which owns the historic hall, is considering a possible use as a wedding location or conference hall, after making public a decision to stop subsidising the centre.
The authority says it is funding the centre to a sum of between £150,000 and £200,00 and can no longer afford to due to its precarious financial position.
In an email this week to councillors chief executive Theresa Grant said: “In terms of the actual building, which as you know is a Grade II listed hall, there is currently no proposal on the future of the building and when we have options to consider, we will consult with the Leader, Cabinet Member and the Leader of Wellingborough in the first instance. However, the uses are very restricted, due to the heritage nature of the building and grounds and any use would have to respect the listing status and heritage value.
“We intend to explore options including uses such as conference / wedding venue or similar uses. However, while we develop and test option, we cannot continue to subsidise the activity operating from the hall which Cabinet instructed we cease back in March 2018.”
A decision to stop running Grendon Hall was taken by the Northamptonshire County Cabinet in private in December 2017 under the direction of then leader Heather Smith. It was agreed that the centre would not close before March 31, 2018.
In her email Theresa Grant said: “The proposal at the time was to cease our outdoor education activity and to sell the property as a going concern to a third party private sector operator. This discussion went on for many months and when I arrived in August discussions were still ongoing. The offer at that point was well below the market value for the property.
“The offer from the private operator fell away and we continued operating the outdoor centre. On evaluation of the operation, it was clear that it was being subsidised to the tune of between £150,000 – £200,000 per annum. As you know, we are currently operating under a S114 notice and the county council voted to deliver only core services in August last year. Therefore, as this is not a statutory service it should have ceased at that point. In fact, it should have ceased on March 31, 2018, as agreed by Cabinet in the previous December.”
The news of Grendon Hall’s closure has come as a shock to many who have used the centre over the years. They have taken to social media to express their dismay and shock.
Liz Coppard posted on facebook: “ This is awful news – both my children went to Grendon on more than one occasion – both NMPAT music and school Year 7 class residentials. I took my own very first Northants school Year 7 there for a week in 1989 or 1990. This is horrid.
Suzy Dawson said: “So many fabulous memories of music courses from aged nine on the violin and later with Northamptonshire County Youth Band.”
The hall will officially close on March 20.