The Hepworth Wakefield: Council to grant new 30-year lease to ease gallery’s ‘funding difficulties’

The Hepworth Wakefield is set to be granted a new 30-year lease as the art gallery is having “difficulties” attracting funding.

The agreement would see the operator of the award-winning attraction paying Wakefield Council a peppercorn rent. Senior councillors have been asked to agree to the new lease which will also cover the Hepworth Garden and a children’s playground on adjacent land.

The Hepworth Wakefield (THW) agreed to its current 25-year lease agreement in 2011, meaning only 13 years remain.

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A report says: “THW are now encountering difficulties in raising external funding to support its capital work aspiration due to the lack of longevity remaining on the lease for the building.”

The Hepworth WakefieldThe Hepworth Wakefield
The Hepworth Wakefield

The garden and playground are subject to separate lease agreements.

The report adds: “THW wishes for the council to combine the leases for the garden and gallery with the addition of the playground site as a single lease. If granted, THW can disband the Garden Trust and move forward with developing an exciting new playground for local families and visitors to Wakefield. This would have the advantage of tidying up different leases that expire at different times.”

The garden is currently out of use as it is being used as a compound for contractors working on the neighbouring Tileyard North development. Work to return it to a “high quality play space” is planned before the end of the year.

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The council currently pays THW £700,000 a year to manage and operate the gallery and take care of the local authority’s own fine art collection. In November, it was awarded Arts Council funding of £923,000 a year until 2026. The market rental value of the building is estimated to be £25,000 a year.

The report recommends granting the lease at a peppercorn rent as it “would not be possible” for THW to pay a market rent for the land. It adds: “The option would seriously hinder THW’s ability to effectively manage the site.”

Councillors will consider the report at a meeting on October 10.