LEDBURY'S former library, the Barrett Browning Institute, looks set for a major makeover to become a recording studio, performance space and youth cafe.

The two-year transformation would result in a cafe which would be open to the public on Saturdays and a performance space for various groups, including the young people who current use the venue as a drop-in centre.

Christina Thorpe, a drop-in centre trustee who gave an update on progress last week to Ledbury Town Council, said: "A performance area with lights and sound facilities is an issue which the young people themselves have highlighted as a must."

Ledbury's ecumenical priest, Tony Hodder, also a trustee of the drop-in centre, said a recording studio on the second floor would be managed by a qualified sound engineer.

He said the improvements in arts provision "fitted into the ethos of Ledbury" and added: "At the moment, for example, the Ledbury Poetry Festival does not have a dedicated venue for young people. We could make the Institute a young person's venue for the Ledbury Poetry Festival."

Mr Hodder added: "We are trying to create something for the more creative types among our kids in Ledbury. I think it's a good idea."

On the first floor, the revamped Institute would be an arts and crafts area and would also incorporate facilities for pool and table tennis, so that it would become "an inspiring area to chill and relax".

New access to the building would be from The Homend, to replace the present one off a narrow pavement on Bye Street. 

The revamped Institute would also offer work experience opportunities for young people, via the cafe, which will become "a hub for the young people of the area". But the cafe would also be open to the general public on Saturdays and would provide a useful stream of income for the centre.

Tables will have built in tablets with internet access, and phone charging points.

The planned revamp would tie in with an expansion of the youth drop-in centre, which is currently open two evenings a week but would open every weekday evening, and on weekends too.

A new charity, named by young people, will be formed by the organisation which runs the drop in centre, Ledbury Youth Activities Support, so that grants can be applied for.

The group which owns the building, Ledbury Places, has already spent £80,000 on structural improvements and plans to do more.

The town clock tower is part of the Institute, and Ledbury Places is planning to carry out work on that.

But none of the improvements will come cheap. The cafe will cost £20,000 to set up and the hiring of two managers will cost a further £20,000 a year. The recording studio would cost around £15,000 to set up, and a part-time studio engineer would be paid £11,500 a year. The wages of youth workers would be £20,000 a year.

Ledbury Youth Activities Support would seek what it calls "a benevolent rent" of around £10,000 a year from Ledbury Places, but running costs would add a further £10,000 to the bill.

As well as seeking grants, the new charity will seek £5,000 a year for three years from Ledbury Town Council, and that was one reason why Ledbury Youth Activities Support addressed the town council at a meeting last week.

Town council chairman, Cllr Nina Shields said: "It's safe to say there's a lot of initial support, but we need to look at our budget. We need to look at the practicalities."

The issue will be discussed further at a meeting of the town's finance committee.