What does the future hold for Garth House?

Bicester photo comp.The Garth.
Bicester photo comp.The Garth.

A £250,000 project to save Bicester’s Garth House has opened up opportunities for businesses and community groups to move in.

The roof and upper floor of the 175-year-old former hunting lodge had gradually fallen into a poor state of repair, threatening the long-term future of the house.

But after lengthy discussions the council decided to take action, and a programme of careful restoration and repair work is now almost complete.

A total of 10 rooms will be available on the upper floor, and even more space could be provided if Bicester Town Council decides to move into the new civic building planned for Bicester town centre.

Councillor James Porter, who has been involved in efforts to preserve Garth House since he joined the council eight years ago, said: “The future is yet to be decided, but what we have achieved now is a house that has a future, rather than a house rapidly falling into decay that had no future.

“The second floor now has lights and power so it could be used by different groups.

“Councillors will consider the issue in more detail, but we’re currently in a position where the floor is usable.

“We need to do some additional work to improve the access, but it’s not insurmountable and could be quite easily accommodated.

“The house could then be a really good asset for the council and the town.”

The building also has a Wi-Fi connection.

As well as being home to Bicester Town Council, Garth House is occupied by the Citizens’ Advice Bureau, the Bicester Outreach Centre and the town registrar.

Garth House has been given additional protection after the house and surrounding park were recently designated as community assets under the Localism Act.

Cllr Porter said: “One of the things we are very aware of is that we are custodians of this wonderful park and building, and it should be understood we will remain custodians of this wonderful park and building.

“The town council believes it has taken a very good and far-reaching decision to make sure it will be here for generations to come.”

Up to 90 per cent of the tiles used during the repair work were salvaged from the old roof, and new tiles were specially made to blend in with their neighbours.

“We’ve had huge value-for-money out of it,” said Cllr Porter.

“It’s not only been the roof, it’s cladding, the tiling on the outside of the building and the guttering. It’s been a complete restoration.”

Bicester Town Council could decide in the autumn on whether or not to move to the new civic building.