A FRESH round of bidding for the former Central Club site has opened.

The home of the iconic Black History Mural has been empty since 2006 and a number of community groups were previously invited to put forward offers.

Reading Borough Council came under fire from Apsire - the legal entity established by the Caribbean Action Group - after a 4,000 strong petition was handed over, urging the council to leave the site in the hands of the community.

Further concerns have been raised about the future of the mural and the council have insisted that any future project will ensure the landmark is retained, while bringing in as much money as possible.

Council leader Jo Lovelock said: “This new round of bidding is a completely open process and bids are being welcomed from all sectors, including any community or voluntary groups who bid in the previous round.

“All bids are welcome, but the council is completely clear that only bids which ensure the historic black history mural is retained at its current location will be considered.

Reading Chronicle:

"The mural remains of huge importance and represents Reading’s long history of celebrating different cultures and promoting tolerance."

Councillors decided not to proceed with any of the third sector bidders as it could not be satisfied that any of the bids received represented best value for council tax payers in the current financial circumstances.

The new marketing process will close on May 11 and the council will then decide which bids represent the best financial and community value.

A professional survey of the mural was conducted in the autumn after campaigners asked for a 'cast-iron guarantee' that the site would be protected.

Cllr Lovelock added: “Government funding for Reading has been massively reduced over many years and is failing to keep pace with huge demands for essential council services we provide, like children’s and adult social care.

"The Council owes it to the local tax payer to understand the full value of the property, what people are willing to pay for it and to compare these bids with ones which make offers to keep elements for community use.”

Although the exact value of Aspire's bid could not be disclosed, the council rejected claims that the community group had offered £10m for the site.