The creation of a vibrant Cultural Hub in the heart of Ledbury is one of the innovative suggestions put forward for the future uses of the Barrett Browning Institute (BBI) by the Ledbury & Area Development Trust (LADT).
This ‘Hub’ could become the centre for residents and visitors to enjoy a wide range of literary and music-based facilities and activities. It would also provide information about the many aspects of cultural heritage that the town has to offer – including buildings, people, and open spaces.
This Cultural Hub would build on Ledbury’s already significant literary connections and could, potentially, provide an innovative and vibrant facility not just for the town, but also for the West Midlands Region – and beyond.
LADT received funding for the Outline Plan from the Adventure Capital Fund – a London-based new style of funder for community enterprises which offers pioneering packages of support that have the potential to transform neighbourhoods across the country.
‘Adventure Capital Fund were very pleased to have been able to help Ledbury & Area Development Trust to develop ideas for the use of the Barrett Browning Institute by offering them one of our Business Development Grants. The fund aims to invest in and support community organisations to develop enterprises which will help them become sustainable and strengthen local communities’.
LADT also received funding from the Ledbury & District Civic Society whose aims are to promote high standards of planning and architecture, and to secure the preservation, protection, and improvement of historic buildings and places in Ledbury and the surrounding area.
The funding for the Outline Plan was crucial because ideas for the future of the building must be considered as soon as possible to prevent a major building in the centre of the town being shut, and thus appearing derelict, once the Library moves out.
Commenting on the outline proposals, Roger A. Payne, LADT’s Chief Executive, said, “we have spent over six-months looking at a number of options for the building and talking to a range of people and organisations. The ideas we have come up with had to match our key criteria – namely that the building would continue to be used for the benefit of the people of Ledbury in perpetuity, and that there needed to be income-generating activities to ensure the future viability and sustainability of the building.”
A second option put forward by LADT to the BBI Trustees is to retain some of the Cultural Hub activities and facilities, but in addition to provide some intermediate affordable accommodation in the building.
A third option would be to focus on the activity or use that maximises the potential income that can be generated from the building – and then to use the profit from that to establish a ‘BBI Community Fund’ which local organisations could apply to twice a year.
The BBI Trust Deed of 1895 provides a fourth option because it gives the BBI Trustees the power to transfer the building to Ledbury Town Council.
It will be for the BBI Trustees to make a decision on the best way forward to ensure a smooth transition to new uses for the building. Once they have done this, applications for funding and a detailed Business Plan will need to be prepared.
The building currently houses the Library which will move to a new building due to be constructed on a site next to St Katharine’s/the Master’s House over the next 18 months to two years.