A 170-YEAR-old town band says its future has been put at risk after council bosses rose their rent by 400 per cent.

Ulverston Town Band has been told to cough up £4,000 a year by South Lakeland District Council to continue using the Band Room at Canal Head.

The rent is currently £750 per year.

A spokesman for the council said there had been no rent review in 20 years and needed to up the cost because they are 'legally obliged to get the market rate for our commercial portfolio'.

Sion Thomas, operational lead for Delivery and Commercial Services at SLDC, said the authority was continuing to talk to the brass brand about how they can be supported - including with grants.

Band Secretary Gillian Benjamin said: “The band room is a facility we are incredibly proud of and this is a very difficult position to find ourselves in. “Finding an alternative space for rehearsals might be possible but to find a location with storage for music, instruments and all our equipment would be incredibly difficult. “The band refurbished the Band Room ourselves in 1999/2000 with a lottery grant and our own funds, resulting in a total investment of over £56,000. “There was no financial input to this project from SLDC. “A rent increase of the magnitude suggested would wipe out the bands finances in a very short time and could potentially bring about the end of this historic Ulverston organisation.”

The first written record of a performance by Ulverston Town Band was at the laying of the foundation stone for the Sir John Barrow monument on Hoad in 1850.

The town band has 30 members and a training band with learners of all ages.

Any money raised through concerts, donations or grants goes back to the band funds to pay bills, maintain instruments and purchase new music and uniforms.

Sion Thomas added: “We have been leasing the first floor of our unit at Canal Head to the much-loved Ulverston Town Band for 20 years.

“Under the terms of the lease there were no rent reviews for 20 years.

“As with any lease renewal, rent review or lease negotiation, the landlord will value the space based on the current commercial market, the area and available space.

“Earlier this year our agents reviewed the current market to determine the level of rent to be expected for this type of unit and arrived at the proposed commercial rental figure.

“Much as we would like to be able to charge less rent to community groups such as Ulverston Town Band, which so greatly enrich the life and culture of our towns and villages, sadly we are unable to do so because we are legally obliged to get the market rate for our commercial portfolio.

“However, we are continuing to talk to the brass band about how we can support them to meet the increased rent payments, by suggesting to councillors that they award a grant to the band.

“We hope that we can achieve a good outcome so that the talented musicians of Ulverston Town Band can play on at Canal Head for another 20 years and more.”

Band Secretary Gillian Benjamin wanted to clarify that the band has occupied the rooms at Canal Head since 1972, not just for the last 20 years.

Ulverston Town Mayor Cllr Sharon Webster said: “The town council expressed great concern about this huge increase in rental for the town band and will be appealing to SLDC to re-consider.

“The town band is a hugely important organisation for the town, performs in our good times and our sad times and is woven into the fabric of this town.”