AN HISTORIC South Lakeland community centre in desperate need of repairs looks set to be gifted to the village’s famous church.

The Cartmel Institute was gifted to the people of the village more than 150 years ago for educational and recreational purposes.

Until the current village hall was opened in 1936, The Institute was the main community centre for the village.

However, the Institute’s secretary Euan Cameron said that the building had now become ‘surplus to requirement’.

“The building is underused and there’s a very large maintenance bill that we do not have the money for,” he said. “We have several good village halls and so it has made the Institute surplus to requirement.”

The issue has been ongoing for some years. A well-attended public meeting held in 2013 found that although nobody wished to lose the Institute, a suitable business plan could not be thought of.

The Trustees agreed to continue to seek some long-term and financially secure function but concluded that, unless something could be implemented by 2020, they would have no option but to sell the building before its value started to depreciate.

“People said they do not want to lose it but nobody was able to come up with any sort of business plan that would justify keeping it on and funding the money to do it up,” Mr Cameron said.

However, Cartmel Priory has long needed additional space for offices, storage, meeting rooms and toilets and the original benefactors of the building had also stipulated that if the Institute ceased to be required as a working men’s facility, it should be offered for religious use.

It was decided that the Cartmel Priory Trust Fund (CPTF) was the best body to take possession of the Institute as they were in a position to raise the money necessary for the restoration and conversion of the building.

After an initial meeting with the CPTF, the Institute Trustees provisionally approved the transfer of the building and around £50,000 held in the Institute investment accounts towards the costs.

The Institute’s solicitors have confirmed with the Charity Commission that such a transfer probably can be made and are preparing the necessary legal documents.

However, the changes are of concern for two traders, Jackie Airey of Priory Salon and Peter Mardon of Fieldhead Crafts, who lease part of the building.

Although it is intended to retain a couple of shop units on the ground floor, the businessowners will have to cease trading while the building work goes on.

“I will not be able to trade anymore,” said Ms Airey. “Even if I stay I will have this unit again it will all be shut for months and I will lose a lot of business.”

And Mr Mardon agreed that his own future was uncertain..

“That £50,000 could be spent here on this building,” the 69-year-old said, explaining that he anticipated the rents would go up after the work had been done and he would not be able to stay at the unit.

The Priory is keen to complete the transfer, and start the building work, as soon as possible and, in addition to its use of the building, to continue to offer community facilities similar to those at present.

The building will have a meeting room which, when it is not being used by the Priory, should be available for other bookings.

Further information on the proposals can be obtained from the Institute Secretary on 015395 32319 or