The future of Dorchester’s Municipal Buildings will be decided in the autumn – when Dorchester Arts learns if it can fund a new theatre and arts complex.

News about a grant application for a new arts centre for the town, at the Maltings in Brewery Square, is expected in September.

For the last three years the arts organisation has been based within the town council owned building, taking over the former Magistrates Room as an office and using both the Corn Exchange and the upstairs Town Hall for performances and workshops.

It was previously based at School Lane where it was beset by parking problems and a venue too small to attract a big enough audience to create surplus funding for future expansion.

The partnership with the town council is reported to have worked well, bringing income for the council, and increase in audiences for live performances.

Town councillors have been looking at the long-term future of the buildings but have been forced to hold off on major decisions until the Arts group future is known.

Their decision could also involve re-locating from the existing town council offices in North Square, although no final decisions have been made.

At Tuesday’s town council Management Committee Cllr Stella Jones said she hoped there would not be a delay in the funding application for a new arts centre: “We can’t decide on our future until September when Dorchester Arts decide if they are going to a new place, or staying. If we knew we could get on with it.”

Fundraising and Development Manager for the Dorchester Arts Board, Jacky Thorne, reported that progress is continuing with Arts Council ‘Catalyst’ funding of almost £24,000 being used for fundraising training including membership schemes, wills and legacies.

The Arts Board has been told that there has been negative audience comment about the chairs, bar décor and ongoing line of sight problems with the raked seating.

Cllr Tony Lyall said that the Corn Exchange wedding hire business has also been the subject of negative comments from recent weddings over the state of the floor – which he said needed to be repaired, despite the estimated  £5,000 to £10,000 cost. Work is also needed to the roof of the building which could cost £250,000 and is scheduled for next year.

Deputy town clerk Steve Newman assured councillors that essential repairs and maintenance to the building would be undertaken.