Councillors in Reading have signed off the bid to turn the town’s gaol into a culture and arts hub.

Reading Borough Council’s policy committee agreed its proposal to the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) on Monday, March 8 in a session closed to the public.

The council was given a  March 15 deadline by the MoJ as a period of exclusivity for its business plan.

The conditions of the bid are confidential but the council has said the report to the March 8 meeting highlights both the opportunity and risks and uncertainties. If the bid is successful the council will seek a private sector partner to undertake the project.

It will be funded from the capital programme, based on a detailed development appraisal.

Councillors also agreed that, if the bid succeeds, the terms and financial implications will be presented to the policy committee after a due diligence process. A cross-party Reading Gaol board will then be set up.

Reading Borough Council leader Cllr Jason Brock said: “This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to deliver a unique culture and heritage hub for Reading.

“We firmly believe a successful bid by the council would be a game changer – a catalyst for further investment in Reading, a key driver in our recovery from Covid and the creation of a site of local, regional and national significance in the heart of our town and in our historic Abbey Quarter.

“It is important to note this remains a conditional bid at this time and that this is just the start of a negotiation with the MoJ.

“The decision to press ahead with a formal bid is nevertheless a major milestone.”

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