WITNEY'S Corn Exchange, closed by the town council in November 2011 due to structural problems, could be handed over to a charitable group after its planned reopening in 2015.

A new report has found the redevelopment plan for the Market Square hall is “feasible” and a new advisory group has been created to draw up an architectural brief and a business plan.

The council hopes these will be completed within two months and will enable it to start searching for donations to fund the start of the redevelopment.

The news has been welcomed by former hall users but they have raised concerns about public engagements after the decision was made in a closed meeting.

Public halls committee chairman Toby Morris said: “What has been established is that the wants and needs, gleaned from our market research, are feasible.

“I am pleased because it means that we are in a position to move to the next phase of the process.”

The hall – used by community groups for plays, concerts and meetings – closed after a report found it had “major” problems with fire escapes, stonework, heating and electrical systems.

Since then, the council has conducted public consultations into the building’s future use and brought on board cultural development agency Oxford Inspires.

The agency, which worked on Oxford’s Pegasus Theatre and Old Fire Station redevelopments, produced a report on May 1 showing the project was “feasible”.

The council already has £100,000 from the developer of the 1,000-home estate at West Witney earmarked for the project, which Mr Morris said could cost a total of £1m.

But the authority is now considering the governance of the reopened building and whether it could be run by a charitable organisation or another external body.

Mr Morris said this could take a similar form to Madley Park Hall in Witney, which is owned by the town council but run and maintained by a charitable trust.

He said: “The hope would be that we will be able to give it to a body that is able to get more funding, which is not accessible by the council, and business.”

He said this would also reduce the “risk” to Witney council tax payers.

Mr Morris said the press and public were not allowed to attend the meeting on May 1 because of “commercially sensitive information”.

But former Corn Exchange user Margaret Hamm, of Witney Dramatic Society, said: “The public is entitled to know what is going on with the Corn Exchange.

“It is a town hall. It belongs to the public and I just feel we should be involved.

“I am not very happy it was a closed meeting.”

But she added: “The town council has mismanaged and not looked after the Corn Exchange in the past.

“If it is handed over to someone who shows more interest in it then I think that is a good idea – but I would like to know what this means for the building’s future.”