I am writing to you to update you on an important new development in the campaign to save Reading Gaol.

As you will be aware, in January the Ministry of Justice announced that, after ten long years lying empty, the gaol had been sold to their preferred bidder the Ziran Education Foundation.   I understand that the initial proposals that the Ziran Educational Foundations presented to the Ministry of Justice for this site ahead of the sale included plans for “an educational centre providing services to the local community, including a museum outlining the history of the prison and an exhibition space accessible to the public”.

Followers of this campaign will know I had supported the council’s bid for the site and that I have been campaigning for a number of years alongside local community and arts groups for the gaol to be saved and turned into an Arts and Heritage Hub.

Earlier this month I attended an initial introductory meeting with the new owner of Reading Gaol, Mr Channing Bi, arranged by the Mayor of Reading, Councillor Tony Page, and attended by representatives from the University and senior councillors and officers of Reading Borough Council.  We used this opportunity to convey to Mr Bi the enormous cultural and heritage significance of the Gaol, as well as the huge local support for the Gaol to be a space for arts and heritage in Reading.

The overview provided to us at this early stage would seem to indicate that the developers appreciate the historic and archaeological significance of the site and that they intend to reflect this in their proposals, which they state will include a distinctive art museum, museum, and an ‘art-inspired hotel’.

This was a positive initial meeting and I hope that the new owner will work with the council, local arts and heritage groups, Reading University and myself.  I look forward to further, more detailed discussions taking place and I am cautiously optimistic about the future of this wonderful historic building.

I would also like to take this opportunity to thank everyone involved for their continued support, including the 13,000 people who signed my petition to- save the gaol.

I and other campaigners are cautiously optimistic, and we are continuing to step up our work on this very important project.  I will continue to keep constituents and respondents to the petition updated on any further developments in this campaign.

Yours sincerely,

Matt Rodda MP

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