On Wednesday 10th August 2022, local community groups received notice from Cambridge City Council that Cambridgeshire County Council intend to sell the former Mill Road Library building. Full text of this letter is shown below.
Dear community group,
I am writing to advise you that the owner of the former Library, Mill Road Cambridge, has notified us of their intent to sell the property. This property is on a list of ‘Assets of Community value’ which is kept by the City Council. This list has all of the details of buildings or land which are felt to provide an important service to their community and as such, if they are sold, community groups should have an opportunity to raise the funds to purchase the asset. You can see the full list of Assets of Community Value here: Community Right to Bid scheme – Cambridge City Council
The owner of the former library cannot sell the building for a period of 6 weeks from the date they notified us of their intention to dispose of the property. This is called the ‘interim moratorium period’. The interim moratorium will end on Friday 16th September 2022. You are advised that should your community group wish to be treated as a potential bidder for the asset you must notify us of your intent within this period, at which point we will inform the owner.
If you do wish to be treated as a potential bidder you will have until Sunday 5th February 2023 in which to develop a proposal and raise the money required to bid to buy the asset, so long as you have notified us before 16th September. Please note that the owner can sell to whomever they wish – this process is simply to allow community groups time to consider whether they wish to bid and if so, to have time to raise the funds for the purchase.
You should be aware that in order to be treated as a potential bidder, interested parties must qualify as a community interest group by a) having a local connection with the land, and b) falling within one or more of the following definitions;
- a charity;
- a company limited by guarantee that does not distribute any surplus to its members;
- an industrial and provident society which does not distribute any surplus to its members and is registered or deemed to be registered under the Industrial and Provident Societies Act 1965; or
- a community interest company.
There is some useful guidance on whether a body qualifies as a charity here:
For guidance on community interest companies you could look at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/community-interest-companies-business-activities.
If I can be of further assistance, please let me know.
Julie Cornwell (she/her pronouns)
Community Funding and Voluntary Sector Manager
Cambridge City Council
On behalf of the ‘Community Right to Bid’ scheme
Amongst groups to receive the letter were Petersfield Area Community Trust whose chair posted:
We are disappointed that the building is being sold, as we hoped the County Council would find a new community use for this historic building on a lease that kept it within public ownership. However, this process gives community groups a chance to assemble a bid, and we would love to hear from any group who would like to do that. Cambridge City Council manages this process for any community asset in Cambridge, so we or any eligible group have until Friday 16th September to advise them if a group would like to take this opportunity. Giving the City Council a notification of an intent to bid would cause a moratorium on the sale until Sunday 5th February 2023, in order to give the group the chance to assemble the bid, although this is still a tough goal in just six months. We are sure there would be huge community support for an effort to buy the building, and its location just behind the new Mill Road Community Centre may provide new opportunities for community collaboration. PACT would be happy to hear from any group which is not sure of their own eligibility to trigger the moratorium.John Franks, Chair of Petersfield Area Community Trust
Read the full Petersfield Area Community Trust news release here.
If you would like to help Petersfield Area Community Trust in their quest to put together a community bid for the former Mill Road Library, email info@PACTcambridge.org.
Local historian Antony Carpen, blogging as Cambridge Town Owl, posted on Friday 12th August 2022, in support of Petersfield Area Community Trust, giving some of the background to the library, and its recent travails.
You can read his full post here: Cambridgeshire County Council to sell the old Mill Road Library building.
It’s well worth subscribing to Antony’s blog to get email notifications; just scroll down and find where to enter your email and click the subscribe button.
And if you’re in a position to make a donation to support Antony’s ongoing work, you can do so here.
This blogpost is open for comments but, if you are able to help, getting in touch with Petersfield Area Community Trust is much more important.
I think it would make a great intercultural arts centre. A hub that brings everyone together to celebrate Mill Road’s diversity and history. Just imagine going to acoustic gigs there by local talent, seeing Indian dance (which I did once when it was the Bharat Bhavan – and was amazing), nighttime screenings of world/classic films, talks on art and local history, maybe a gallery to promote local artists’ work centred around an affordable but modern-style cafe (with secondhand books for sale to honour the building’s past and with a nod to the old CB1 cafe). Of course during the daytime some of the space could have a variety of purposes and classes.
I really think we should set up a community group of like-minded people who want to bring the Mill Road community together to offer us something new, useful and a place we can look forward to using, actually feel excited about and inspire us in tough times.
It’s a tall order to raise so much money in such a short space of time but it has been done before (the community’s attempt to buy property on Sturton Street for a community centre raised a similar amount) and there might be arts funding we can tap into too.
Let’s not let a beautiful building with such historic resonance on Mill Road go to the hands of property developers!
If you are interested and would like to get involved please email me:
Yes, it is a tall order, but perhaps a consortium of local, cultural groups would be able to raise the promise of sufficient funding in the short time frame?🙂☘
Yes, thank you Edward – a tall order but if we don’t try… 🙂
Pehaps the ICS (Indian Cultural Society of Cambridge might like to consider bidding for the building? I believe they were leasees of the building prior to itts recent renevation, and may be able to negotiate the return of their stone carvings, now in storage nearby!?
Link: Indian Cultural Society – ICS, Cambridge, UK on Facebook
The stone carvings were saved from destruction by Mill Road Traders’ Association’s Piero d’Angelico who, being from a family of master masons, recognised the workmanship.
You can read more on our blogpost (dated 29 March 2021, updated 14 August 2022) – Beautiful Indian stonework under threat