Option 1 Retail Unit
To support the evaluation of this option, the Council has sought two estimates of rental value from specialist agents. The more conservative of the two was £23,500 and the more optimistic, £25,546pa. In addition, the Council would make a saving of around £5,000 on business rates. This is not an inconsiderable sum which would go some way in offsetting the Council's loan repayments. There is, of course, no guarantee that the space would readily let, given there are already a number of vacant retail spaces in the town. Expert advice indicates the space would be more suitable for A3 catering purposes, such as a chain coffee shop.
Option 2 Visitor Information, Heritage Hub, Magna Carta Museum
Under this proposal the Town Council would seek to use the space as a combination of a visitor information centre, 'Heritage Hub' and a permanent Magna Carta exhibition. The centrepiece to this option would be the creation of a Geographic Information Mapping System. This system would project a map of the town on to a large screen, enabling the presentation of a series of maps covering a specific theme over a period of time. The Magna Carta exhibition would provide a dedicated section displaying a selection of the Town's charters together with other civic regalia; providing information on the importance of medieval Faversham.
Option 3 Information Gateway
Public services for Faversham residents are provided by three councils and a range of other organisations. Drawing services that provide information, advice and support to the public together in one location, should save residents time and energy in accessing services and improve the quality of service they receive. We now need to have discussions with KCC, Swale Borough Council and government funded agencies like Job Centre Plus and the voluntary sector to explore whether it is viable to use 12 Market Place for this function.
Option 4 Continue use as an exhibition space
The ground floor has been in near constant use as an exhibition centre over the last couple of years. The events monitoring visitor numbers recorded in excess of 16,000 people across the last year. Drawing people to the town centre has several benefits beside the obvious cultural and educational benefits. It contributes to a sense of community, providing a place where people can engage with others, often outside their usual circle. Increasing footfall to Faversham also helps support the independent shops and market traders. There have been exhibitions, such as the 'WW1 Bunting Project' and 'Cleve Hill Solar Farm', which provided insight into major changes that could impact Faversham and surrounding area.