A LONG-RUNNING saga to keep the tourist information centre in the heart of Malvern could come to an end after district council chiefs revealed talks to move the service to a new location had begun.
Malvern Hills District Council has started negotiations with Great Malvern Priory about accommodating the TIC which is currently located on Church Street.
It is proposed the parish office at Lyttleton Well would be the new home of the TIC and offer the majority of the services it does currently but with fewer staff.
As part of the deal the district council would pay rent on the building and remain responsible for employing staff as well as promoting the district as a tourist destination.
It would still generate a significant saving for the council but how much will not be known until the negotiation is completed.
If a deal is reached then the changes would be made early in 2019.
Staff at the TIC have been informed of the plans.
Coun David Chambers, leader of Malvern Hills District Council, said the authority wanted to keep the TIC in town centre area and an agreement with Great Malvern Priory and Lyttleton Well would be ‘hugely beneficial’ for everyone.
“With more people going online to plan their days out and ‘staycations’ there is inevitably less demand for a physical TIC,” he said.
“However, tourism is a priority for us and we want to maintain face-to-face provision in the town as well as the excellent service provided by our TIC staff who co-ordinate information for the whole of The Malverns.
“We appreciate this is an unsettling time for our staff and thank them for their continued hard work and commitment.”
The long-running saga over the move of the TIC began at the start of 2017 when the district council revealed it wanted to move the service into a new £950,000 community centre on Avenue Road.
Then in May of 2017, plans to move the TIC stalled after the authority found out Priory Lodge had been made a listed building.
Priory Lodge, which was built in 1919 as a school gymnasium, was listed as a Grade II building by Historic England on Tuesday, January 24 – not long before the district council revealed its proposals for demolishing that building.
Talks with Great Malvern Priory are at a very early stage and any agreement would need the approval of councillors as well as church authorities.
Coun Chambers added: “As a result no further details can be released at this time but an update will be provided when it is possible to make more information public.”
The authority needs to make changes to the TIC as it is unsustainable in its current form, particularly as the council needs to save £1.45million from its budget by 2021 due to Government funding cuts.
Previous talks with Malvern Town Council about taking on the TIC came to nothing.