Old Deanery to be marketed once again

August 27 2020
Old Deanery to be marketed once again

THE Old Deanery is going back on the market – again.

The historic property on Cathedral Green was originally put up for sale last year, and an offer from a private buyer was accepted, but no sale ensued.

It was reported to be under offer again last month, only for that deal too to now fall through.

The Diocese of Bath and Wells, which is selling The Old Deanery after relocating its offices to Flourish House at Cathedral Avenue, said in a statement: “The trustees of The Bath and Wells Diocesan Board of Finance have decided to remarket The Old Deanery, as the sale to a purchaser was unable to progress. It will be marketed from August 24 through Carter Jonas and Lodestone Property.

“The trustees have a duty of care to ensure that the proceeds from the sale benefit the mission and ministry of the Church, and all the people of Somerset, whom the Church serves.”

The news will give encouragement to the Save the Old Deanery community group which would like to buy the building and use it for the benefit of local people.

Their vision is to turn it into a community hub incorporating a world-class art gallery or museum, a restaurant, cafe and shop. They would also like to make more of the important Turner Herb Garden.

The group unfurled a banner reading ‘Save the Old Deanery for the people of Wells’ in front of the building on July 26. A leaflet explaining their aims has been delivered to every home in the city, resulting in dozens of messages of support, and an epetition has gained hundreds of signatures.

Adrian I’Anson and Paddy O’Hagan have sent a letter on behalf of the organisation to the Diocesan Board of Finance setting out the strength of support for their proposals. At the time of writing, they said “a truly astonishing 887 people have signed up to support the community bid, with only three people expressing doubts. This is unprecedented for Wells.”

They say that the community bid is also supported by members of Wells City Council, the leader of Mendip District Council and the Wells MP, and that their bid should be viewed favourably even if it is not the highest in cash terms.

They say: “While we appreciate the need for the Diocese to safeguard its financial position, we would ask you to give greater weight, than you have applied hitherto, to the suitability of the use of this key building which sits within one of the few intact groups of mediaeval ecclesiastical buildings in Europe. The Charity Commissioner’s Official Guidance says that a charity can accept a lower bid if its surveyor recommends that the overall offer is the best that can reasonably be obtained.

“Even if our cash bid is in fact lower, we have offered a share of future profits or gate money, it will enhance the Diocese’s mission as part of the community and increase its income from more tourist footfall to the Cathedral and Bishop’s Palace (Wells Heritage Partnership support the bid). Separately the Localism Act makes clear that public use should be the first consideration, which will also be very relevant to any planning application.”

A selection of comments they have received from the public were included with the letter.

“I am a Wells resident who has visited The Old Deanery on a Heritage Open Day, and the thought of this masterpiece of a building falling into private ownership is unthinkable. I fully support your efforts to secure the building for the people of Wells and its visitors to enjoy. This project would bring a material asset to Wells that will encourage visitors and locals alike to make this space into something magical again,” says one.

“The benefit to the people of Wells of keeping the building in local ownership and use would be immense. Selling to a developer reflects a lack of understanding of Wells residents and is akin to selling the family silver without due regard of the history or a vision of the future. Is the very short term gain worth it? Please, please talk to the locals,” says another.