Art-lovers and councillors have expressed their concern that if Apsley House is sold to private buyer, it could be allowed to crumble like the Corn Exchange and Mechanics’ Institute.

The Grade-II listed building in Bath Road which houses the museum and art gallery will not reopen after the cabinet decision to keep it shut was ratified by the scrutiny committee, and the collection will be moved out. The building will be repaired and then the council will look to sell it, using the money it receives to fund a new gallery and museum.

But Labour's Jane Milner-Barry said: “I am very concerned as an Old Town councillor. At the cabinet meeting last week the leader was asked if he could guarantee if Apsley House was sold it wouldn’t be allowed into the state of the Corn Exchange and The Mechanics’ and he couldn’t.

“The Corn Exchange is only a quarter of a mile from Apsley House and we all know what sort of state it’s in. I’m concerned another heritage building, a unique building, could be sold and fall into disrepair.”

Director of strategic growth and development Richard Bell said there were very few controls the council could impose on a private buyer as part of the sale of the building.