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£1.5m plan to refurbish Druitt Hall - and then replace it
A “WHITE KNIGHT” is hoping to spend £1.5m replacing Druitt Hall in Christchurch with a new community centre and museum.
Alistair Somerville Ford told a residents’ meeting that he and his organisation, the Institute of Commercial Management (ICM), want to refurbish the existing building and spend five years looking at sites for a replacement.
Mr Ford told a packed function room at the Captains Club Hotel that he wants to help regenerate Christchurch by creating a new museum that will help attract tourists and maintain a community centre in the town.
He said: “The plan is to develop tourism for this town and base it on history and heritage.
“We need effectively a large space for the history society with more information, and effectively a proper museum.”
Councillors have voted to close Druitt Hall in March 2013, despite the protests and a petition from residents.
Mr Ford said under the proposal he would extend its use for five years before the new “community hub” opens.
He said: “We will pay for its refurbishment.
“Give me the lease for five years.
“I will put a small team together and I will look at how we can rebuild something really special for the town.
“Let’s drive this through and put Christchurch back on the map.”
He added: “We are not looking for any outside assistance, we are just looking for your co-operation.”
Mr Ford told the meeting that his organisation ICM is a charity which has “never failed” in its social, economic and community development opportunities across the world.
He said after five years if the new facility was built on a different site Druitt Hall would go to the East Dorset Heritage Trust. Chairman of the Friends of Druitt Hall, David O’Sullivan, said the group backed him.
He said: “We see you as a white knight coming in to save the day and we welcome your proposal.
“From our point of view it can only be a good thing.”