A GOVERNMENT minister believes a Reading theatre company’s plans for Reading Gaol could turn it into a “world-class cultural hub in an important historic building”.

Rebecca Pow MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Arts, Heritage and Tourism at the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), was referring to plans made by Theatre and Arts Reading (TAR).

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The chairman of TAR, Melvin Benn, had given a letter to the MP outlining the organisations plans for the gaol site.

TAR was formed in May 2013 when a group of interested parties from Reading’s arts and business communities met to discuss the need for performance and exhibition space in the centre of Reading.

An executive was formed tasked with finding a suitable location for a new Theatre and Arts venue and to secure funding.

READ MORE: Reading Civic Society supports campaign to save gaol and turn it into arts hub.

Hilary Scott, TAR's executive secretary explained: “We have had a vision for some time but recently have been revising that.

“We see many elements to the gaol from performance spaces to a digital hub.

“We are working with many partners at the moment for example Reading Museum to help us shape our plans for a museum and the University.”

Mrs Pow said that while she understood the Ministry of Justice was duty bound to get the best economic value for the site, the DCMS is active in placing culture and arts at the centre of communities.

She said: “It is of great credit to you that you and your organisation already have the support of the community and local businesses.”

Mrs Pow had spoken to the Arts Council who confirmed they have an ongoing dialogue with TAR and are enthusiastic about its plans and urged TAR “to keep talking to them”.

TAR had received a grant from the Arts Council to carry out a feasibility study on the gaol site which was completed last year and is currently being refined.

Mrs Pow added: “We are now concentrating our support on projects that encourage local areas to implement transformative cultural-led strategies by investing in place-based cultural activities.

“Evidence suggests that such focus can help make these places more attractive to live, work and visit and your plans for Reading Gaol clearly support these aims.”

Mr Benn said: “We really appreciate Mrs Pow’s interest in our plans and thank her for her input. We will continue to brief at the highest level to help us to gain the site from the Ministry of Justice.”

The gaol site is believed to be coming on to the market by the end of summer.