Ryedale District Council’s policy and resources committee has backed a plan to renovate the Grade II listed building to enable it to become an arts centre for North Yorkshire and to boost the economy of the towns of Malton and Norton.
The scheme, which has won the support of Dame Judi Dench and Griff Rhys Jones, will have significant benefits to the area.
Julian Rudd, the authority’s head of economy, said: “It will provide regeneration benefits for Malton and Norton in general, especially for the tourism, catering, hospitality and arts sectors of the economy, and with it more employment. It will also promote Malton as a major cultural hub.”
He said that the rooms are “significantly underused and in need of extensive internal refurbishment.”
Mr Rudd said an options appraisal and business plan is needed to prove to potential investors that the proposed use of the arts venue is both appropriate and viable. His report warned that if the council does not back the scheme, the Prince’s Trust may withdraw its support.
“This would significantly reduce opportunities to secure capital funding from heritage and other organisations,” he said.
Members of the Milton Rooms management committee have said that they would no longer be prepared to commit time to the regeneration of the venue if the council does not give its support.
The council, which holds a long lease on the rooms, has been working with the management committee to develop the venue’s potential and identify funding sources.
The policy and resources committee is recommending to the full council that it invests £7,000 in a £22,000 scheme to produce an options appraisal and business plan, with the balance coming from the Architectural Heritage Fund and the Arts Council.
Coun Edward Legard (Con) welcomed the plan, adding that he hoped the council would “be brave enough” to help it become a reality.
The council leader, Coun Linda Cowling (Con), said: “I am very optimistic about the scheme – it is the best opportunity we have ever had for the Rooms – it will be a big improvement for Malton as a whole and its town centre in particular.”
Several members praised the work of artistic director Gary Cooper and his team who are running the rooms and have attracted several household names to perform there.