Following the closure in 1986 a developer Mr Forbes investigated the possibility of converting the northern portion of the building into a night club and had plans prepared in March 1987. He subsequently reached an agreement to purchase the building in April and the conveyance to his name is dated 9th November 1987.
A protest meeting was called by the Railway Village residents’ organisation “Action Group” together with the assistance of local historians, to resist the commercial development and restore the Institute building to the town as part of its heritage.
The Action Group began negotiations with the Borough Council. A public row with the owner and the action group caused the owner to abandon the project. Again negotiations over the future of the building with the council led to no action. Recriminations about the apparent indifference of the council created an aura of mistrust between some parts of the public and the council.
In early 1988 the building was sold to a Cirencester developer, Lamplough Estates Ltd. They had a proposal to convert the building into a hotel. This proposal was submitted for planning and listed building consideration. The local community again vigorously opposed this application. The application was refused on 27th February 1989.
The owners appealed against the decision, which was allowed, subject to a number of conditions on 13th December 1990 in spite of the furious objections by the local community. The Inspector Mr John Gray commented in his report:
I do not for one moment doubt the sincerity and commitment of those (members of the community) who gave evidence at the enquiry. However, the fact remains that there is no positive alternative for the building that can be shown to be effective in terms of securing its restoration, refurbishment and future maintenance.
At this point nothing happened. The owners indicated that they had intended to pass the building on to a hotel group to redevelop the building, but due to the time delay in gaining planning permission they had lost their window of opportunity and were now victims of the recession.
The building was allowed to fall derelict and became a target for vandalism. Finishes and fittings were removed from the building and other wanton destruction occured. Small fires were started within the building. The surrounding residents tried to keep an eye on the building and called out the police and fire brigade when incidents took place. In order to stem the flow of vandalism the Borough Council erected a fence around the building at a cost of £10,000. They reportedly did not bill the owners on the assumption that they might go into receivership and the Council would be obliged to take on the ownership of the building.
On 23rd March 1991 an internal transfer occured within the Lamplough family. The new owners became Mountfield Ltd of Cirencester.
The planning consent expired in 1995 and was not renewed. At the insistence of the community and the newly formed Mechanics’ Action Group, the Borough brought legal pressure to bear on the owners to carry out safety works to prevent loose slates from falling on to the footpath. No work was carried out on the building and it fell into even greater disrepair.