MALVERN CIVIC Society has made a major step forward in its bid to turn a historic town centre building into an asset for the community.

The Grange, in Grange Road, next to Malvern Theatres, has been empty since last year, when the Citizens' Advice Bureau and Age UK moved out of the building.

The civic society applied to have the building, owned by Malvern Hills District Council, declared an Asset of Community Value.

This means that if the council now put it up for sale, the civic society will have six weeks to say if it wants to buy it. If it decides to go ahead, the sale must be put on hold for six months to allow the society to put a bid together.

Chairman Clive Hooper said “We are absolutely delighted with the decision that the Council has at last made.”

He said the society now wanted to consult community groups to see if they are interested in using the building.

He said “This is an exciting opportunity for Malvern. We want the Grange to be a building for the whole community, and its location makes it ideal for that. We shall also be seeking early discussions with the council, as owners of the Grange, to establish on what terms it would be prepared to make the premises available.”

Earlier this year, Route to the Hills said it was interested in the Grange as a visitor centre, and Malvern Theatres said it would be an ideal venue for the increasing number of community and youth groups which currently meet at the theatre complex.

The Grange was put on the market at the end of March, with a guide price of £350,000. A bid from local company Leviathan Consulting was accepted by the council, but then withdrawn by the would-be buyer.

This week, Cllr Paul Cumming, MHDC's portfolio holder for finance and resources, said the council will be looking at the future of the Grange and deciding the best way to go forward.