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Tourist information centre gains community asset protection
4:42pm Monday 9th September 2013 in News
A VOLUNTEER-run tourist information centre has strengthened its position at the heart of a market town after winning community asset status.
Thirsk Tourist Information Centre (TIC), in the former public toilets block in the town’s Market Place, has become the fifth building in Hambleton district to secure the protection under the Localism Act.
The other buildings which have been granted the protection include the church hall, in Felixkirk, near Thirsk, the Blue Bell Country Inn, in Alne, near Easingwold, the Orchard Inn, in Husthwaite, near Thirsk, and allotments at Masham Road, Bedale.
If any of the listed assets are put up for sale, the landlord must give the community group which applied for the status six months to prepare a bid to buy the property.
Land and buildings can only be registered as a community asset if they are capable of generating a profit which can be reinvested into activities that benefit the community.
The TIC had to demonstrate that at least 50 per cent of its users were local residents and produced dozens of letters of support from traders, groups such as the town’s Ritz cinema and volunteers.
Over the past year, the TIC has had up to 25,000 people, many of whom live in Thirsk and Sowerby, visit the centre to request information.
The non-profit venture, which is run by dozens of volunteers, has worked to transform the way the area and its businesses are promoted, as well as providing information and help to residents, since taking over the service from Hambleton District Council in 2011.
The move comes ahead of the lease for the district council-owned building running out at the end of March.
The TIC director Peter Rush said: “We hope that the council will offer us a renewed lease on reasonable terms, but if it decides to sell the building, having it registered as a community asset will stop it being sold overnight.”
Mr Rush said he while preparing the documents for the community asset bid had been a fairly onerous undertaking for the volunteers, he believed there were many other sites in the area which would benefit from the protection the status gives.
Thirsk town councillor Cynthia Hesmondhalgh said: “This gives the TIC, which has worked very hard to produce a community service, some security at a building which is perfect for them and is much easier to find than the previous centre.”
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