AN historic Grade II listed building has finally been returned to the community.

Knutsford Town Council has taken ownership of its Toft Road offices and the surrounding grounds.

Freehold of the council offices, along with its grounds and the library garden, has been gifted to the local authority by Cheshire East Council as a community asset transfer.

Cllr Peter Coan, chairman of the council’s assets and operations committee, said: “I am thrilled to see the council offices return to local ownership and look forward to developing an improvement scheme for both the grounds and building so they better serve the needs of our community.”

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Negotiation between the councils has been ongoing for several years since Cheshire East Council formally approved the transfer in 2018.

This is the fourth transfer from the borough council through its community asset transfer programme.

The public toilets were handed over in 2013, the Market Hall in 2014 and the allotments the following year.

Tabley Hill chapel and cemetery were also taken back under local management in 2016 and 2020 respectively although these had always been owned by the town council.

The Grade II listed council offices were built in 1844 as the Prison Governor’s House and were acquired by the Knutsford Urban District Council for £1,000 in 1930 after the prison closed.

Following local government reorganisation in 1974, the offices were transferred to Macclesfield Borough Council although the town council retained an office and use of the chamber.

Since the 1970s the building has also housed a tourist information centre, offices of the Knutsford Guardian and private businesses.

The town council sought the transfer to ensure it retained a long-term low-cost office within the centre of Knutsford.

The transfer was subject to a covenant that the building forever be used for the benefit of the local community.

Cheshire East Council required the town council to take ownership of the library gardens as part of the transfer for the whole site to be managed as one space.

The council’s intention is to undertake a renovation and modernisation of the building to provide improved office and community use accommodation.

The council aims to install a lift to make the historic council chamber accessible for council meetings and to subsidise the building through letting office space to tenants.

The improvements would expand the number of community organisations and public services which can use the building.

A sub-committee of councillors will be exploring options and developing proposals for the council.