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Groups campaign to stop Southampton's Wool House becoming a pub
ART lovers in Southampton have pleaded with council bosses to scrap plans to convert one of the city’s most historic buildings into a pub and restaurant.
The city council is currently in negotiations with the Dancing Man Brewery over a deal which would see the Wool House become an open plan brewery.
But more than 240 people have signed a petition to retain it as a community art centre, which it was used for from June until this month.
The 15th century building in Town Quay was formerly the city’s maritime museum, but that closed in 2011.
Arts group Element Arts was given temporary permission to use the Grade one listed building as a cultural centre in the summer, and it featured art exhibitions, music, dance and film performances and workshops.
In September, the Daily Echo revealed that the council was in negotiations with The Dancing Man Brewery, which owns the nearby Platform Tavern, over a commercial lease.
Brewery bosses say their plans would respect the building’s rich history, and could create 30 jobs. They have also pledged that the building would house a new tourist information centre, a facility which Southampton has lacked since the old one closed earlier this year.
A planning application is expected to be handed in in the new year, and the council ended Element Arts’ tenure at the Wool House earlier this month.
It was estimated that more than 10,000 people visited the various events held there between June and December. Now a group of art lovers is petitioning council bosses to change their minds and allow arts groups to continue to use the building.
Petition creator Joe Hudson, a dance teacher from Shirley, said: “Culture, and having a space which promotes and shares it, is a valuable public resource, one that was establishing itself well in the Wool House.
“So why would they want to destroy that? How about listening to the public to decide what best to do with this public resource?”
Sally Bibb added: “I believe that this building, one of the oldest in Southampton, and an important part of its heritage should remain a resource for the community.
“I find it astonishing that the council would even contemplate sacrificing one of our most precious heritage assets and allow it to become a place that will appeal to such a narrow part of the community.”
Brian Rowlands said: “The area does not need another ale swilling venue. This valuable historic venue would be a huge loss to local people and visiting tourists for many years for the sake of another pub - Southampton councillors, wake up and smell the coffee.”
The council’s leisure and economic development czar, Cllr Matt Tucker, said: “The proposal from the Dancing Man Brewery – a Southampton-based company – to take on the lease to the Wool House would secure a rental income for the council, would pass on some of the repair obligations to the tenant and would guarantee further investment in the building.
“It would also create up to 30 paid jobs and contribute to the city’s economic growth.”