Trust ‘devastated’ as Dispensary handed back to council

Manchester City Council is to take control of the 19th-century building by the end of this month after the Ancoats Dispensary Trust admitted defeat in its attempts to restore it.

The Trust had hoped to restore the Dispensary into a community café, event space, and meeting rooms, alongside two storeys of offices, which were to be developed in partnership with Igloo Regeneration, alongside architect Purcell.

However, the project failed to secure a £4.5m grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund for the works in October last year, after the HLF said there had been “a lack of progress on match funding” and said it would be “reckless” to back the project with further funding.

The building near the city centre was first saved from demolition in 2013 after developer and owner Urban Splash agreed to hand it over to the Ancoats Dispensary Trust, subject to enough funds being raised to restore it.

However, it has now been handed back to its former owner and will revert to council ownership at the end of the month.

The council plans to redevelop the building into affordable housing in partnership with Great Places Housing Group.

The Trust said that without lottery funding was “no longer financially feasible” for it to maintain ownership of the building.

The Trust’s lease was also subject to a draw down clause stating that it must enter into building contracts a whole year before refurbishment work was scheduled to take place in September.

In a statement, the Trust said: “To have come so far and to fall at the final hurdle has been extremely difficult to accept.

“We fought so hard because we believed that the Dispensary’s heritage was unique, and that the stories of the people in its community deserved to be told.

“After five years, the Dispensary still stands, and we consider this a testament to the community’s love for the building and people power”.

Cllr Bernard Priest, deputy of Manchester City Council said its ambition was to partner with Great Places to maintain “as much of the fabric of the build as possible.

“The dedication of the Ancoats Dispensary Trust has been admirable throughout their fight to save the property,” he added.

The Trust will continue to exist as a stakeholder and pressure group, and any material it has collected over the past five years will be archived, and it will be contacting local museums in Manchester to donate to collections and to local community groups.

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