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Future of Oakwood House in Maidstone as wedding venue in doubt

By Caitlin Webb, local democracy reporter

The future of a popular Victorian wedding venue is under threat as Kent County Council is looking to save money.

Oakwood House could host its last wedding in August as council staff are set to move into the building.

The council is planning to relocate some of its staff into the 19th century manor next year to save money on office space and repair works.

The future of Oakwood House as a wedding venue is uncertain
The future of Oakwood House as a wedding venue is uncertain

Weddings booked after August have been cancelled in preparation of the move.

It is understood staff at Oakwood House have already been laid off.

Currently the council-owned site costs the taxpayer around £100,000 a year due to the cost of extensive repair works.

Due to these scheduled building works, the wedding venue has taken a hit with only 19 planned events next financial year compared to 38 in 2018/19.

When the business was at its peak 10 years ago, around 141 weddings a year took place at Oakwood House.

Despite refurbishing the café and bar, toilets and 40 bedrooms as well as building a new suite named after the original owners, more work needs to be done to keep it running as a wedding venue.

As the renovation plans are considerable, KCC is looking at its options which include continuing as normal, selling the property or repurposing the building.

The recommended choice is to relocate KCC's adoption, coroners and adult education services to the property.

KCC director of infrastructure Rebecca Spore said: "The current facility operates as a trading company so the idea is it's supposed to deliver a surplus back to the county council.

"Unfortunately at the moment it is not performing as well as we would expect.

"Unfortunately at the moment it is not performing as well as we would expect... it is creating a budget pressure and has done in the last few years" - Rebecca Spore

"It is creating a budget pressure and has done in the last few years.

"It is projected and forecasted to do next year."

She added adult education services is currently in a building of "poor condition" and leases for ceremonies and Kent registrar services are coming to an end.

At the latest resources cabinet committee, she added: "We took this opportunity to look at what the potential of Oakwood would be in that context and the asset review has recommended that we look further at re-utilising that asset for KCC purposes."

If approved, construction is set to start in September to meet the requirements by early autumn next year.

KCC has previously failed to find anyone to take over the building as a hotel and conferencing facility partly due to the competitive market.

Currently Genuine Dining run the hotel business on a day-to-day basis while KCC's company Gen2 are the managing agent.

The final decision is set to be made by the end of May following a consultation.

We reported earlier this month another of Kent wedding venue - Salmestone Grange in Margate - will hold its final marriage this summer as its owners say it is time for the "next chapter" of their lives.

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