PEOPLE living in Salisbury’s Cathedral Close are being asked for their views about the future of Sir Edward Heath’s former home Arundells.
The Close’s residents’ association has circulated a questionnaire to see whether people living near the former prime minister’s home want it kept open as a visitor attraction or would prefer it to be sold.
Pressure group the Friends of Arundells has also written to the residents outlining a new business plan that they hope will keep the £6million property open.
They are pinning their hopes on a proposal from multi-millionaire businessman Peter Batey, who served as Sir Edward’s political secretary, and has offered interim financial support while a major fundraising campaign is launched to secure Arundells’ future.
The plan involves keeping the house open as a museum and memorial to Sir Edward, and allowing it to be used as a place of study and for small exhibitions about Britain in the 1960s and 70s.
The house could also be used for small concerts and as a venue for wedding photography.
“I am delighted that the trustees are now looking actively at my proposals,” said Mr Batey. “With goodwill on all sides, I am confident that we will be able to turn around the finances of Arundells and put the property on a secure long-term footing. “Arundells is a remarkable place and it is important that it is not simply closed and sold off. Instead it should find a lasting place in our national heritage and culture.”
In the letter to Cathedral Close residents, chairman of the Friends of Arundells Gerald Gibson, wrote: “Before any irreversible decision is taken to close the house and garden, every possible avenue should be explored. Failure to respond to the new opportunity that has now arisen would be tragic and quite irresponsible.”
Last October the trustees of the Sir Edward Heath Charitable Foundation said they had no option but to sell Arundells due to dwindling visitor numbers and mounting costs.
The house lost £97,000 in eight months with an average of 70 people taking advantage of the “free-flow” opening each Thursday.
The trustees are now examining Mr Batey’s proposal before making a recommendation to the Charity Commission, which will make the final decision about whether Arundells can be sold.
Former Salisbury MP, Robert Key, recently resigned as a trustee saying that considering the proposal would delay the sale, which he felt was needed as soon as possible to make funds available for scholarships in Sir Edward’s other passions, sailing and music.