Orpington Priory saved and set to ‘remain part of the civic life of the area’
PUBLISHED: 13:29 16 November 2016 | UPDATED: 16:12 16 November 2016
A community bid to acquire the historic building was backed by MP Jo Johnson earlier this year
A community group dedicated to the preservation of Orpington Priory has expressed its disappointment with councillors after the historic building was acquired by a contemporary art organisation.
Friends of Orpington Priory and Gardens (FOPG) registered the building as an asset of community value after Bromley Council revealed its intention to close Bromley Museum at a public meeting in November 2014.
A bid to run the priory as a centre for heritage, community and events, launched by Orpington Priory Community Hub, was enthusiastically backed by Orpington’s Conservative MP Jo Johnson earlier this year.
But this week it was announced that the priory had been sold to contemporary art organisation V22, which plans to open artists’ studios in the old library building during the summer of 2017.
FOPG co-chair Richard Gibbons commented: “Friends of Orpington Priory & Gardens members are naturally disappointed that a number of Bromley Councillors chose not to support the local Orpington Priory Community Hub community-led bid.
“Nevertheless, we are pleased that an arts, culture and heritage outcome for Orpington Priory has been assured, with a commitment to local community engagement.
“We look forward to partnering with Tara Cranswick and V22 on future projects.
“However, concerns remain over the extent of privatisation of the public Priory Gardens park that may ensue with disposal of the Orpington Priory building.
“The Grade II listed Priory Gardens, designated a Garden of Remembrance, includes a memorial to Ivy Millichamp, the last civilian to be killed by a V2 rocket in World War II.”
V22 pledged to act in accordance with the aspirations of English Heritage and hailed the priory’s acquisition as “a special opportunity for the buildings to once again become an important part of the civic life of the area and wider London”.
Councillor Graham Arthur, executive councillor for resources, said: “When everything was taken into consideration, including, crucially, the desire for the priory to remain as a cultural facility, V22, have successfully presented their vision to take the Priory forwards.
“The costs of running this building are significant and V22 have robust business plans in place to help support their vision. V22 are committed to engaging with local people and groups and have a track record of doing this elsewhere too, which gives cause for optimism.”