COUNCILLORS will be asked to write-off an £18,000 loan that helped to save a popular music venue, after the community company that runs the venue argued it was not responsible for the amount.

The Forum, in Borough Road, Darlington, was saved from closure after Darlington Borough Council offered financial help and favourable rental terms to Humantics, a not-for-profit community interest company which took over the facility.

The announcement that The Forum, which hosts live music and offers recording facilities and workshops, could close in 2010 led to a public campaign to save the facility.

In response, the council agreed a 20-year lease for The Forum building, including an initial five year rent-free period, as well as an £80,000 loan to Humantics.

As The Forum was at risk of imminent closure, £18,000 of that loan was advanced The Forum to provide a short term-cash flow, before Humantics took over the building.

The remaining £62,000 was delivered to Humantics once it had taken over the facility and its assets in 2011.

Now the directors of Humantics have asked the council to write-off the initial loan of £18,000, as its loan agreement with the council makes it responsible for the whole £80,000, including the interest payments, even though the organisation only received £62,000.

Councillors will also be asked to increase the rent-free period on the building to ten years and halve the interest the council charges on the £62,000 loan to help Humantics strengthen its finances.

The matter will be discussed by members of the council’s cabinet on Tuesday (May 7) at 5pm.

Allison McKay, director of Humantics, said: “It’s not that we are asking the council to write-off what we owe, nor are we asking for any more public money.

“We are asking them to correct the terms of the loan. When The Forum was at risk, Humantics stepped in to take it over and agreed a loan for £80,000. But, before we took over, the public called on the council to keep The Forum open so £18,000 was advanced to The Forum.

“The loan was for £80,000 but Humantics only received £62,000 when we took over in January 2011. We are paying interest and financing on an £80,000 loan when we did not receive all of it.”

A report prepared for councillors supports the change to the loan and stressed the importance of The Forum to Darlington’s arts and culture community.