THE charity Friends of the Cotswolds (FOTC) has been named as the preferred bidder for the historic Old Prison at Northleach.

Cotswold District Council announced its choice this week after putting the 18th-century building up for sale in July last year, saying it was a drain on taxpayers.

Cotswold District Council announced their choice today after putting the building up for sale in July last year, saying it was a drain on taxpayers.

Although the council had planned to complete the sale by early 2012, pressure from concerned residents delayed the process, and in February the council committed to give weight not only to the price offered by bids, but also social, economic and environmental factors.

FOTC submitted a bid which would create a higher profile for the Museum of Rural Life, which is currently housed in the former prison, as well as restoring the Lloyd Baker Collection.

The Cotswold Conservation Board, which is currently based at the prison, would remain there, with the FOTC acting as landlord.

FOTC chairman Simon Randall said he was delighted by the news.

“However, the hard work starts now and we will need to raise a considerable amount of money to enable us to meet the obligations set out in our bid to CDC,” he said.

“It would be a shame if all those people who have supported us through this process will now assume that the work is complete – indeed, nothing could be further from the truth, and we need volunteers to come to the fore and help us realise our ambitions.

“In the meantime, I would like to thank CDC for giving us this opportunity – we will not let them or the people of the Cotswolds down.”

CDC ward Cllr Chris Hancock (Ind, Northleach) echoed Mr Randall’s words.

“Not only do we get to retain what we already have but we will also be seeing a marked improvement,” he said.

“What really is impressive is that the voluntary sector is keen to step up, deliver services and enhance our heritage at a time when we know the public sector has to make cost savings.

“It really seems to be a win – win for all concerned which I am confident will be widely welcomed and supported.”

Announcing the decision, CDC cabinet lead for corporate resources Cllr Barry Dare (Con, Blockley) said there had been a number of strong bids put forward.

“These required careful and detailed consideration when set against the FOTC bid and the obligations placed on us by full council back in February,” he said.

“The fact that both private and voluntary sectors have shown that they are willing to rise to the challenges we all face bodes well for the future of the Cotswolds.”

CDC leader Cllr Lynden Stowe (Con, Campden-Vale) said he felt the council had struck a fair balance between protecting taxpayers of the District while preserving the collection.

“The FOTC bid offers an opportunity to develop – alongside the CCB – both a volunteer resource and a strategic tourism resource,” he said.

“This would have clear social, cultural and economic benefits for the district and links in with the national themes of ‘Big Society’ and localism.”