How long can the MoJ continue to thwart Reading’s plan to do something positive with the town’s empty prison?
After eight years of avoiding progress, it’s hard not to conclude that the Ministry seems intent on doing everything it can to prevent it becoming the arts and cultural centre that the council, the population, the MPs – and now Banksy – want it to be.
It’s long been known that the taxpayer is forking out £250,000 a year to keep it empty while the MoJ argues it is seeking the best value for the same taxpayers. If ever an example were needed of misuse of other people’s money, the MoJ is displaying it.
The site makes frequent national news yet, as we await news of the winning bid, the question must be asked as to why the process is so opaque, long-winded and expensive.
Had there been more accountability on those deliberating over the gaol, we could have had a stunning tourist attraction by now on a site that, at one time, none of us expected to ever become available.
It makes you wonder if similar frustration awaits Swindon’s now Grade II-listed Oasis Centre dome.
For those of us familiar with the striking 1970s design, the news of its listing seems positive.
But let’s hope that, if SevenCapital can come up with a scheme which will incorporate it, that it happens sooner rather than later.
Swindon’s superb, yet derelict, Grade II*-listed Mechanics’ Institute has a decades-long history of politics and arguments while it decays.
Reading’s King’s Meadow swimming pool (now the excellent Thames Lido) was used for 70 years before it was closed and then abandoned for another 40 while it awaited someone with enough imagination to make it succeed.
It would be bizarre to think that Banksy’s chance journey across Reading in a bus could be the thing that leads to the gaol arts centre dream coming true when it should have been decided long before.
But, given the risk of what could happen, most of us would probably take that.
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