Lavenham Parish Council in negotiations to take over tourist information centre
Lavenham Parish Council hopes to maintain its tourist information centre (TIC) and bring back a post office to the village, as it continues talks to take over the building for community use.
Negotiations are ongoing with Babergh District Council over the future of the TIC in Lady Lane, which Babergh’s cabinet has decided to discontinue at the conclusion of the current tourist season on October 31.
On Thursday, cabinet members will consider a proposal by Lavenham Parish Council and Lavenham Business Forum to acquire and develop the building as a community hub, retaining a tourist information point and potentially providing post office services.
A district council spokesman said any decision made in principle on the proposal at next week’s meeting would be subject to further negotiations.
“We are currently in negotiations about the future of the Lady Lane site and hope to see it used to best support the local community and visitor economy,” he said.
“However, this won’t necessarily mean the building will close.
“We’ve been looking at alternative methods of supporting visitor information across all of Babergh’s towns and destinations, including with Lavenham Parish Council and the business forum.
“The fact is that the Lavenham TIC, as it is currently functioning, is not a sustainable model given the level of public funding needed each year to keep it running, and the potential for modernised and flexible alternatives.”
The spokesman added that current TIC staff, who are currently at risk of redundancy, are receiving support via the council’s redeployment team, to find them suitable alternative employment if possible.
Carroll Reeve, chairman of Lavenham Parish Council, told the Free Press they are optimistic about the proposal moving forward, as it could provide numerous uses for the wider community.
He confirmed that discussions are also under way with the Post Office Ltd about the possibility of setting up post office services in the building, as Lavenham does not currently have a permanent post office and relies on a mobile service during weekday afternoons.
The parish council hopes it will be able to acquire the building either through the freehold interest or as a lease with an option to buy, and subsequently form a Community Interest Company to run the building.
The proposal also suggests employing a paid shop manager to handle finances and administration, and having a team of volunteers working under them, in order to reduce staff costs.
Cllr Reeve said: “Babergh District Council has been very professional and very open to the idea. There has been a very positive outlook from council officers and members, so it is looking good.
“As ever, it is always going to be the details that matter. But, at the moment, the balance of probability is favourable.”
He added that, if the proposal does move forward, a public consultation on the matter will be held within the village, likely taking place in September.