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Ashburton Library faces uncertain future after new council pulls out of sale deal

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THE future of former Ashburton Library is once again in disarray after the new Labour council pulled out of a deal to sell it.

Thornton Heath-based church His Grace Community Outreach thought it had secured the purchase of the building in Ashburton Park and has even started work on bringing it back into use.

But Croydon Council's new administration has decided to pull out of the deal, which Pastor Bola Thomas, of His Grace, believes had already gone through.

Councillor Timothy Godfrey, cabinet member for culture, sport and leisure, said it was not in the best interests of the area for the building to be sold.

The council now wants to keep the building as part of Ashburton Park and Cllr Godfrey said the Conservative council had sold it for a cut-price sum as part of an election strategy.

He also said the money it would take to bring the building back into use would not be as much as the previous administration estimated.

"It is a core public building in the middle of a public park and the Conservatives were selling it for a very low price," he explained.

"For a 125-year lease we didn't feel the deal was good enough. There is a lot of work on the building which hasn't been assessed, the figures quoted to bring the building back into use was a highest level figure.

"No detail has been taken on a lot of the refurbishments, the last administration was basically guessing."

But Pastor Thomas has accused Labour of using the building as a "political ball" and "using any excuse" to stop the council honouring its deal.

She said: "We paid a fair price for a building which has been abandoned for eight years. The building has suffered enough already. It will cost £700,000 to bring it back into use rather than the £1million the Tories estimated.

"We have not just guesstimated those figures, we have had surveys carried out. This is very upsetting."

Councillor Tim Pollard, the shadow cabinet member with the remit for libraries, said it was a "great shame" Labour had "not honoured" the deal.

"I don't know where they think they are going to find this money, but this is an example of Labour's election promise coming home to roost," Cllr Pollard added.

Pastor Thomas also claims she has signed a legally binding contract and Labour had every chance to go back on the deal before it was signed.

She added: "It went through corporate services committee, which includes both parties, and no one said anything so how can they say about the Conservatives taking a cut-price?

"I have tried to speak to Cllr Godfrey but he has not replied to any of our emails or phone calls. No one can get hold of him. He is trying to avoid us and they are not being transparent at all.

"But I am talking to my barrister and we will fight this all the way."

His Grace wants to turn the building into a community centre, church and nursery while Cllr Godfrey said he wanted to talk to the local community to find out what they want done with the building.

Ashburton Library faces uncertain future after new council pulls out of sale deal


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