FIG Tree may move to church following rebuff from council

Bruce Crowther
Bruce Crowther

The FIG Tree International Fairtrade Centre’s hopes of securing new premises at Lancaster’s Assembly Rooms have been dashed.

Proposals for an international Fairtrade Centre, run by Garstang’s The Fig Tree, to be located there were kicked out at a Lancaster City Council cabinet meeting last week.

Instead, councillors voted to “maintain the status quo” at The Assembly Rooms in King Street and look to improve the offer there.

But far from being disappointed FIG Tree director Bruce Crowther said it was the right decision and he now hopes his centre can relocate to the another venue - the St John the Evangelist Church in Lancaster which is on the city’s Slave Trade Trail.

He said: “We’ve got the Churches Conservation Trust, which looks after the building, coming to look at The FIG Tree on Monday. We’ve already looked at the building.”

He stressed talks were at an early stage but it looked as though there was potential for them to work together.

He said the Assembly Room traders had made a very good case for keeping their venue, “It would have been a very bad way for The FIG Tree to start in Lancaster with traders being thrown out.”

He said the disused church looked “looks absolutely perfect in every possible way.”

Coun Eileen Blamire had told Lancaster councillors: “My feeling is that the Fig Tree doesn’t meet our requirements. I want to see the garden open and a really good cafe in there.”

Coun Janice Hanson said: “Up to now we haven’t taken much interest in the Assembly Rooms, and we need to so now. We need to make it an attractive place for visitors and residents, but we need to be clear with tenants what we expect of them.”

Fiona Gordon, who runs a second hand book store in the Assembly Rooms said: “The offer is unique, much valued by its customers, and is run by a group of sole trader entrepreneurs who live in the Lancaster district. We have made some improvements to the space and many of our customers say I wish we had a place like this in our town’.”