Youth hostel seeks £100k council loan for crucial repairs

The Alnwick Youth Hostel building requires £243,000-worth of work, but it is hoped a £100,000 loan from Northumberland County Council will cover the most pressing repairs.

By Ben O'Connell
Wednesday, 6th February 2019, 11:30 am
Updated Thursday, 7th February 2019, 4:56 pm
Alnwick Youth Hostel, on Green Batt.
Alnwick Youth Hostel, on Green Batt.

The proposal, which would see the social enterprise (AYH) pay back the money over 15 years at 3.2 per cent interest, was discussed at Monday’s (February 4) meeting of the corporate services committee, ahead of it being signed off by the cabinet next week.

A report to councillors explains that a basic condition survey was carried out on the listed building by Faithful & Gould, which identified that work valued at around £243,000 was required.

‘The £100,000 loan will be used to complete the work that has been identified as urgent and necessary in order for the business to stay operational,’ it continues. ‘This includes pinning of stone work on the curtain wall and repair of stone surrounds on the windows on the front elevation.

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‘The remainder of the non-urgent works identified by the Faithful & Gould condition survey will be funded from the AYH reserves and the annual budget for repairs and maintenance.’

At the meeting, Coun Nick Oliver, the cabinet member for corporate services, said: “This is a really important community resource within the Alnwick area. Tourism is the second most important sector in Northumberland’s economy and probably the first in Alnwick.

“I think it’s important that tourism is inclusive and that young people have a chance to experience the history and culture of one our more important market towns.

“The loan will not be secured against an asset as the building is owned by Advance Northumberland and will be transferred by the county council, but the youth hostel has shown that its financial performance is strong.”

AYH currently has reserves of £52,000 and its business plan forecasts net profits of £10,000 this year followed by £14-£15,000 in the next five financial years.

Coun Oliver said that the county council’s review ‘suggests this is an affordable loan, with payments totalling £8,400 a year, so I recommend that we agree to this loan’.

He added: “If you ask a surveyor to look at a building, they will always give you a long list but this does deal with the main and urgent issues.”

The property, on Green Batt, formerly belonged to the county council before the now defunct Alnwick Community Development Trust purchased it and developed it into its present function, which was opened by the Queen in 2011 and is now continued by the surviving trading arm, AYH.

Arch (now Advance Northumberland) bought the building from the development trust and leased it back to AYH with a five-year, full-repairing lease agreement.

Advance has agreed to transfer ownership to the county council at nil cost and the authority will simultaneously grant a rent-free, 99-year, full-repairing lease under a community asset transfer agreement, to ensure ongoing provision of the service in Alnwick.

Ben O'Connell, Local Democracy Reporting Service