Witney Museum & Historical Society
Corn Exchange in the News
Quotes, comments & news reports concerning the closure of Witney Corn Exchange

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Page last updated: Sept 18th 2013
Page first published: February 19th 2012
The Fate of Witney Corn Exchange?
In November 2011, the iconic and well loved Witney Corn Exchange was 'closed with immediate effect'.
We are seeing living history in action here. The fate of this Grade II listed building (see British Listed Buildings) is not yet clear.
November 10th 2011
Oxfordshire Guardian

The Corn Exchange in Witney town centre has been forced to closed, after falling into a state of disrepair.

The town council decided temporary closure was the only option for the grade II listed building at a meeting held on Monday. The decision was prompted by the latest building inspection report, which was received last week.

The report highlighted imminent issues with the ventilation and heating systems, which would require a significant amount of public money to fix. Councillor Harry Eaglestone, Witney town mayor, said: “It’s very sad that as a council we have had to come to this decision.
The Annual Town Meeting takes place on Wednesday 14th March in Langdale Hall at 7.30pm.
The Annual Town Meeting is an opportunity for Witney residents to express their views and ask questions about issues in the town.
Image from Oxfordshire Guardian
click image to see article
November 10th 2011
Witney Gazette

The Grade II listed Corn Exchange in Market Square, Witney, has been closed with immediate effect.

Witney Town Council made the decision because the hall’s heating and ventilation system is due to fail “imminently”.

The council is moving upcoming events to alternative premises, including Langdale Hall in Langdale Gate.

It is not yet known how long the hall will be closed for.
November 11th 2011
BBC Oxford

A public hall in West Oxfordshire has been closed because the heating and ventilation is close to breaking down.

Inspectors said the Grade II Witney Corn Exchange will be shut for the foreseeable future "due to the imminent failure" of the system.

"It's time to start looking at something other than short term fixes and that's what we need to do now," mayor Harry Eaglestone said.

The Corn Exchange was built in 1863 and last refurbished in 1978.

"While we are acutely aware of the historic significance of the Corn Exchange and the importance of its place in the heart of Witney, in its current state it's a bit like an old car," the mayor continued.

"Once one thing goes wrong and is fixed you are immediately faced with the next problem and so it goes on.

"It will take some time to give careful consideration to all of the options before any decisions are made and before any further money is spent."

Witney Town Council said it has listened to the feedback of the hall's users and will incorporate them in plans for "a modern, purpose built town centre venue".
Scroll down for updates.
From Witney Town Council website (publication date unknown).
January 21st 2013

Future plans for Witney Corn Exchange on Witney Town Council web site under Public Halls meeting Minutes (as of September 17th 2013) shows the minutes from January 21st 2013:

http://www.witney-tc.gov.uk/meetings-minutes/minute-archive/public-halls-meeting-minutes/

and the actual minutes in PDF:

http://www.witney-tc.gov.uk/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/Minutes-January-21-2013.pdf

Extract from Public Halls Committee Minutes - 21 January 2013:
CORN EXCHANGE/OXFORD INSPIRES

The Chairman and Cllr R Curry gave a verbal report on their progress with Oxford Inspires. They were currently working on a feasibility study for presentation to the committee, in the near future, for observations. They remarked that they were ensuring all the questions were answered and were also being mindful of certain areas, e.g. conservation. They were moving forward in a staged way.

Cllr Curry confirmed that the intention was to include all sorts of information on customers, opportunities and facilities in order to ensure that the Corn Exchange would be a useful building and used by the community. Once the Town Council had the feasibility study it would be able to make a decision on what it wanted to see in the hall - the vision - and instruct the architects. Decisions need to be based on factual evidence. It was confirmed that Oxford Inspires would be pleased to attend the next committee meeting on 11 March 2013.

A Member agreed that Oxford Inspires sounded experienced with arts and theatre centres and endorsed the fact that questions should also be asked about community use and they should also be given as much information on prior use as possible. It was confirmed that they had already had this information and they fully understood the past usage by community groups and were also looking at usage by young people.

Minutes for March 11th 2013 meeting (referred above) not shown in the Public Halls Meeting Minutes but may be included under one of the other sections (e.g. Planning and Development) on the Town Council web site:

http://www.witney-tc.gov.uk/meetings-minutes/minute-archive/planning-development-meeting-minutes/

May 15th 2013
Oxford Mail

WITNEY'S Corn Exchange, closed by the town council in November 2011 due to structural problems, could be handed over to a charitable group after its planned reopening in 2015.

A new report has found the redevelopment plan for the Market Square hall is "feasible" and a new advisory group has been created to draw up an architectural brief and a business plan.

The council hopes these will be completed within two months and will enable it to start searching for donations to fund the start of the redevelopment.

…Public halls committee chairman Toby Morris said: "What has been established is that the wants and needs, gleaned from our market research, are feasible.

… The agency, which worked on Oxford's Pegasus Theatre and Old Fire Station redevelopments, produced a report on May 1 showing the project was "feasible".

Mr Morris said the press and public were not allowed to attend the meeting on May 1 because of "commercially sensitive information".

But former Corn Exchange user Margaret Hamm, of Witney Dramatic Society, said: "The public is entitled to know what is going on with the Corn Exchange.

"It is a town hall. It belongs to the public and I just feel we should be involved.

Read the full article

September 17th 2013

The Witney Town Council web site shows information for Langdale Hall and Burwell Hall but does not currently appear to report on the status of the Witney Corn Exchange plans.

However, there is some information posted on the Witney Town Council Facebook page (July 2nd 2013 and July 31st):
4. CORN EXCHANGE

The Corn Exchange Advisory Committee met on 19 June 2013 at which the following recommendations were made for approval:

1. That a Quantity Surveyor is commissioned (in line with the Council's Financial Regulations and the Public Contracts Regulations 2006 - if applicable) to provide a detailed costing of the repairs and renovations required in order that the next stage of funding application can be submitted to Heritage Lottery Fund.

2. That the Advisory Committee recommend the QS base their costings upon the original brief, concept designs and the Council's vision for the building.

3. That Witney Town Council pursue an 'in principal agreement' from West Oxfordshire District Council to release the land at the back of the building, and from USS Ltd to provide a 'right of way' over the service yard at the back of the Corn Exchange to provide additional access.

4. That while WTC is committed to redeveloping the whole building, as soon as sufficient money is raised for 'phase one' of the redevelopment, this goes ahead at the front of the building, allowing for a reception, café and one space for hire as a minimum to open as soon as possible and start generating income to contribute to the redevelopment.

5. That a Business Plan and Project Manager may be required for the project by January 2014.

As a result of the above recommendations being approved, the Town Clerk would also suggest the following recommendations are considered and approved:

6. That the appointment of the QS be delegated collectively to Cllrs Roger Curry, Jeanette Baker and the Town Clerk/Facilities Manager.
7. That the cost of the QS be met from the Buildings Earmarked Reserve

Cllrs Roger Curry, Jeanette Baker and Officers will elaborate verbally as necessary at the meeting. Also attached for information/discussion is a fundraising plan.
See Facebook post:
https://www.facebook.com/permalink.php?story_fbid=458241337606017&id=278394255590727

See Witney Town Council Facebook page for updates:
https://www.facebook.com/pages/Witney-Town-Council/278394255590727

Unfortunately it has not been possible at this time to locate the minutes of the meeting for publication of a link here. The most recent minutes for WTC Public Halls Committee show as January 21st 2013
Full Council meeting minutes are shown up to April 8th 2013 and an updated page will hopefully be available soon.

If anyone can help regarding information on plans for Witney Corn Exchange please let us know as we believe it would make a valuable update for our 'Living History' section.
Any further updates will be pubished on the blog