Otley councillors are being urged to bury party politics to save the “crumbling” Civic Centre.
The impassioned call comes in the same week it was confirmed Leeds City Council announced it has abandoned plans to make a Heritage Lottery Fund bid that could have part-funded the multi-million pound renovation of the historic building.
A full update on the latest state of the long-delayed scheme, which would also be supported by a £500,000 Otley Town Council contribution and further land-sale funds from Leeds, will be given to town councillors on November 26.
Town council leader, Councillor John Eveleigh (Lab, Ashfield), insists the project is moving forward, albeit slowly, revealing negotiations are progressing well with a potential occupant.
He said: “The funding originally identified, about £600,000, is still earmarked, and negotiations with a potential lessee are at an advanced stage.
“This should, if successful, help with the capital and ongoing revenue support. We are then hopeful Leeds will identify other funding to bridge the gap.
“Some years ago we agreed we would take out a public works loan to enable work to commence, and neither the previous administration nor the current have rescinded that resolution.
“Clearly, we would like to see things moving faster, but we are working in an extremely difficult environment. However, we remain committed to having a fully upgraded and functioning civic centre as soon as possible.”
The landmark property was closed in May 2010 to allow urgent repairs to begin, but progress has stalled, much to the dismay of many.
These include North Avenue resident Angela Georgeson, pictured right.
She said: “Every council election leaflet from all sides seems to have pledges about the centre, and each seems to blame the other for its current state – in the meantime, it continues to crumble.
“Walking past the front of the beautiful centre I was pleased to see some gardeners putting in plants, keeping the front looking very respectable.
“However, if one crosses the road and looks across you can see mother nature has started to take over, and there are two rather large shrubs growing out of the front of the building as it continues to sit redundant.
“Surely this is above party politics and all sides can work together to find a solution?”
Otley’s Liberal Democrats leader, Councillor Jim Spencer (West Chevin), however, fears the building could stand empty for years.
He said: “The town council is doing the best it can – our proposed contribution has always been to give about £500,000 and we stand by that.
“But it’s the city council’s building and it seems to have kicked this into the long grass.”
The property was previously home to many charities and community groups, including Otley Museum and the town council itself.