A relative of Sir William Gilstrap has said the fight for Newark’s Gilstrap Centre is not over yet, despite a Charity Commission decision that paves the way for it to become a register office.
OUTSIDE the Gilstrap Centre, Newark, are, from the left, Mrs Alex Peace-Gadsby, Mr Allan Towler, Baroness Miranda van Lynden MacRae and Mrs Barbara Towler.
Baroness Miranda van Lynden MacRae, the great-great-great niece of Sir William, visited the building on Tuesday.
That was the same day the commission approved a scheme to change the Gilstrap Charity covenant that will enable the trustee, Newark and Sherwood District Council, to lease it to Nottinghamshire County Council for use as a register office.
Sir William originally gifted the building to the people of Newark as a public library in 1883.
Campaigners said they could appeal against the decision.
It was the first time the baroness, who lives in north Scotland, has visited the building.
She said: “It is a very sad day because it is not what Sir William envisaged.
“I am sure he would be turning in his grave if he knew what was going on.
“He wanted it to be for educational purposes. The Save the Gilstrap campaign has fought well to save it and the fight is not over yet.”
The baroness was shown the building by campaigner Mrs Alex Peace-Gadsby, Mr Allan Towler and Mrs Barbara Towler, of the Friends of Newark Castle.
Approval by the commission was the final obstacle to the leasing of the building to the county council.
The district council argued that money from leasing the building could be better used for the charity’s purposes without being tied to a specific building.
The commission concluded it felt the scheme was appropriate in the circumstances of the case.
Mrs Peace-Gadsby said the campaign was disappointed by the decision and they would consider whether to appeal.
“We need to get together and work out what our next move will be,” she said.
“It has been proven time and again that this is not a suitable building for a register office and there are alternatives that support tourism and heritage.
“This has been a hugely flawed process and we would call upon the district council to launch an enquiry into it. There are always grounds for appeal and that is one possible option.”
Mr Ivor Walker, the chairman of the district council general purposes committee, which sits as Gilstrap Charity trustee, said: “The Charity Commission is satisfied that the council, as trustee, has demonstrated that in making the decision to dispose of the Gilstrap building and to apply for the scheme, it acted in good faith and arrived at a decision which it believes to be in the best interests of the charity.
“As chairman of the trustees, I am pleased that the decisions taken by the committee have been vindicated and that they believe we have nothing but the charity’s best interests at heart.
“This lease will better serve the charity financially and the revenue received will be put to good use.”
Mr Paul McKay, the service director for promoting independence and public protection at the county council, said it was delighted with the decision.
He said: “We plan to use the building as a register office, which we believe will be a jewel in the crown for the town and a beautiful location for our registration ceremonies.”
He said work on the building would start in April with an anticipated opening at the end of September. He said the refurbishment would preserve the building’s character and historic features and that the public toilets will be kept open.