The future of Easthampstead Park Conference Centre (EPCC) will be discussed by the council’s decision-making executive when it meets on Tuesday, 10 April.
The executive will review various options to protect the future of the listed building. These include whether or not to sell EPCC to an established hotel and conference operator following the outcome of a market testing exercise; or whether to retain the site under an alternative form of management. However, disposal for housing is not an option that has been considered.
The council stated back in November last year that continuing to subsidise EPCC by £250,000 per year was no longer sustainable. The council’s efficiency plan, published in 2016, made it clear that the subsidy had to be removed given the demands of other mandatory services such as adults and children’s social care.
Vincent Paliczka, director of environment, culture and communities said:
“The simple fact is the council can no longer afford to keep subsidising EPCC, it’s just not financially viable. EPCC is a significant venue in the borough, but it needs substantial investment. Rather than see it deteriorate through lack of proper investment, which the council cannot realistically provide, we set about looking at alternative options to secure its future.
“Those included whether there were any plausible options for the council to retain EPCC as a directly managed service; to establish a wholly owned council company; to lease it to an external management operator; to find an alternative use for the building or to sell the conference and wedding business as a going concern.
“After thoroughly evaluating the results of our market testing exercise, the most sound option to protect and maintain this listed building is to propose its sale to a highly professional and experienced third party conference and hotel operator, who has the means to significantly invest in the building, enhance the services currently on offer and better allow the local community access to EPCC.
“We have always been clear that maintaining the current high standards of EPCC is a priority and that its listed building status must be respected. Our feelings on these matters haven’t changed. If the sale goes through, the new owner will be investing heavily in the building, improving its quality and making it a much more attractive venue.
“As we have said many times before, there are absolutely no plans for any residential homes to be built on this site. It is important to take steps now to ensure the building is safeguarded and remains part of the borough’s heritage.
“If the executive supports my recommendation, then all existing employees will transfer to the new owner on their existing terms and conditions and we anticipate additional job opportunities will be created as the business expands.
“Additionally, a comprehensive range of improved services will be offered to enable EPCC to continue to benefit current and future residents and businesses. Not only will all existing bookings be honoured, but EPCC will continue to take future bookings.”
The report put before the executive will form two parts, a public covering report detailing what has been done to date and the options available to the council, and a confidential section which will include the outcome of the market testing exercise. This part will contain private third party financial information.
Members of the public can attend should they wish, but may need to be excluded during discussions involving commercially sensitive information. The executive papers can be found on our council and democracy pages.