HOPES that the future of Ludlow Assembly Rooms has been secured for the long-term may be misplaced, and it could be sold off.

That is the concern of Andy Boddington, the Shropshire councillor for Ludlow North.

He says that the more than

£1 million that Shropshire Council has invested in enabling the refurbishment to be completed next year could come at a much higher price than people realise.

According to Mr Boddington, the venue could be taken back by Shropshire Council in three years and sold.

Cabinet members agreed transfer for the Assembly Rooms to Ludlow’s community will be reduced from a period of 125 years to just three years.

This will allow Shropshire Council to take over the venue in 2023. “It can then flog it, if it wants to,” said Mr Boddington.

“The council is also to negotiate repayment of some or all the £1.7m from Ludlow and District Community Association.

“Ludlow Assembly Rooms has been kept alive by volunteers, donations, fundraisers and grants.

“But we all knew that the building needed a major overhaul. It was always going to be a big-ticket item to ensure that a building dating from the 1840s thrives as a cultural venue for decades to come.

“Discussions on funding were lengthy. It would be fair to say, tortuous.

“But hard work by Shropshire Council and Assembly Rooms team secured the grants.

The European Union chipped in £759,000 through the European Regional Development Fund.

“Shropshire Council put in £676,000. Arts Council England paid £676,000.

“The Assembly Rooms contributed £320,000 But the now decades of neglect of one of Shropshire’s premier cultural buildings has come back home to roost.

“Shropshire Council must either halt the project or pay another £1.9m. It has agreed to the extra money taking its contribution from 32 per cent of the cost to 58 per cent.

“The additional funding is very welcome indeed.

“But the clause that restricts the lease to three years is horrific. No organisation can plan for a long-term future with a lease that is that short.

Shropshire Council said it has no intention of selling the Assembly Rooms.

“As this matter was discussed in private session at December’s full council meeting, it would be inappropriate to make any further comment,” said Steve Charmley, cabinet member for assets.