Writing in the Guildford Dragon, Stephen Callendar says:
In support of the GBC Asset Team (reference Burchatts Farm Barn), we have successfully negotiated a long-term lease with them for a fabulous wedding reception (and funeral wake) venue.We manage the building and pay for running costs and maintenance, as well as contributing to repairs. GBC handle maintenance and repairs as required.This is a fine outcome for a 14th-century building that remains a historic heritage asset still open to the people and managed by a great group of local volunteers.The council are to be congratulated on working with us to achieve this and I commend them for their far-sightedness.
Take a look at http://www.wanboroughgreatbarn.co.uk and you can contact the management committee through the site. They provide caterers or hirers can bring their own.
Wanborough medieval barn is indeed a fantastic and unique venue that the town can be proud of. The long term lease that Stephen Callender describes is wonderful news and a great example of what can be achieved with patience, compromise, commitment and imagination. A few years ago the barn’s future was far from certain and there were well founded rumours that the Council was looking to relieve itself of the burden of managing this building.
I was not party to the details but from the outside it is easy to see why a solution was found. When the Council considered the barn’s future, it already had a dedicated team of volunteers. It was large enough to hire out for functions. About twenty years before, in 1997, it had been beautifully renovated as part of a deal with a housing developer and a car park had been added. It was also an integral and well publicised part of the Council’s heritage service. Finally it was a prestigious building, one of the finest timber framed buildings in the South East and Grade II* listed. Finding alternative use or selling it for housing would not have been easy. Perhaps crucially, as Councillor Spooner alluded, the professionalism of the locals ensured discussions did not break down and a solution was found.
I suspect it was all these things coming together that clinched the deal. In the other places, such as Burchatts Farm Barn, West Lodget and the Chantries Campsite the story was different because one or more of these ingredients were missing. Perhaps there were no existing local groups, perhaps Councillors forced through plans based on inaccurate figures, perhaps discussions broke down, perhaps there was no obvious commercial use.The result was wrangling over each individual case and we are all losers when that happens.
That is why the KPMG report is so important and we must learn from it. We need a framework for managing heritage and community sites. We must identify the places we value. Finance is important but should not be the only factor in deciding their future. The Council should strive to involve the community rather than push unpopular solutions when there are practical alternatives.
I think Wanborough Barn is an excellent model because it shows how partnerships with the community can lesson the burden on the council, give locals a fulfilling interest, provide a community facility and benefit the whole town