THE chairman of Tavistock Heritage Trust has said she is ‘confident’ that the Tavistock Guildhall Heritage Centre has a strong future as it works towards reopening at Easter.
The landmark Victorian building was restored with £1.9m from the Heritage Lottery Fund and other backers.
It is intended to draw visitors into Tavistock as an eastern gateway to the UNESCO Cornwall and West Devon Mining Landscape. However it closed its doors in mid December, just 12 months after opening, as grants run out and utility bills soared.
Staff costs were not included in grant aid which focussed on the restoration of the Grade II* listed building only.
The centre manager role was made redundant in December, after the grant from a charitable trust to cover the salary ran out.
However Dr Geri Parlby, chair of the Tavistock Heritage Trust, said work was underway to ensure the centre could reopen in the spring.
She said the trust is looking at introducing admission charges to the visitor attraction, which includes the old courtroom and police cells as well as an interpretation centre bringing to life the mining heritage of the town.
More commercial ventures will include events, function hire and a more commercial focus for the adjoining shop and visitor information centre, run by volunteers. The shop and visitor information centre reopened on January 10.
Geri said the centre, like many other heritage sites across the country, had been hit by a ‘double whammy’ of covid and soaring utility bills.
‘What we hoped was that during the time the Guildhall was up and running we would be able to bring in an income from events and donations to keep the centre going.
‘The town council owns the Guildhall and supports the heritage centre because of their commitment to the Heritage Lottery Fund. However, they too have been hit by the extraordinary increase in utility bills.’
Tavistock Town Council has seen its bills triple for electricity and quadruple for gas for the historic buildings it owns in the town centre, she added. ‘The thing about listed buildings is they have to heat them otherwise they deteriorate.’
She said: ‘I am confident that we will make it a success. It has already been a success but we were hit by the double whammy of covid and a huge increase in utilities costs. Unfortunately we haven’t received funding from the World Heritage Site.
‘They themselves are struggling in Cornwall so they aren’t going to be able to give us a grant. So we are having to research other funding opportunities.
‘We have got the whole of our trustees board working on this, and we have our volunteers, all dedicated to make the Guildhall Heritage Centre successful.’