Councillors in Reading have asked for an urgent meeting with justice minister Robert Buckland and local MPs following the failure of a deal to sell Reading Gaol.

Artisan Real Estate had been in talks with the department to try to buy the site but any sale has now fallen through.

Reading Borough Council deputy leader Cllr Tony Page told Thames Tap: “We have written to the MoJ asking for an urgent meeting with both local MPs and the minister Robert Buckland and his officers to discuss options.

“The MoJ will be reviewing what to do now but we need to take it step by step.”

He said the council would want to see other partners including the University of Reading involved in its future and for it to be used for community and cultural purposes.

Cllr Page argued that the current situation was both predictable and unpredictable.

He went on: “The unpredictable part is the pandemic. The predictable part is that the MoJ were looking for a crock of gold which was never realistic. Hopefully they will have learned from that experience.”

The council had its bid to buy the building turned down last year but Cllr Page said the council would seek to work with the ministry on its future.

But he warned that the fabric of the building had deteriorated since the council’s bid was turned down and money had had spent on keeping it secure while it is empty.

He added: “I Have mixed feelings really. We hope that after this experience, the MoJ will be more open and pragmatic.”

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