HISTORIC Gawthorpe Hall could be let out for weddings by cash-strapped Lancashire County Council.

If the authority goes ahead with the plan for the Elizabethan Grade I-listed building in Padiham it would put it in direct competition with nearby Towneley Hall, owned by Burnley Council.

A county council task force has proposed turning Gawthorpe into a wedding venue as part of a raft of money-raising plans which include renting out Hothersall Lodge Outdoor Education Centre near Ribchester for conferences.

The authority’s Cabinet will now look at the plans as it seeks to save £144million by 2021/2022.

Gawthorpe Hall, which once hosted Jane Eyre author Charlotte Bronte, was built between 1600 and 1605.

It received a £500,000 renovation in 2016.

The historic home of the Shuttleworth family, it is is owned by the National Trust and run by the county council. It contains a textile collection of national significance.

If the proposal is approved it would become the fourth stately residence in Lancashire to become a licensed wedding venue along with Towneley Hall, Clitheroe Castle (also run by the county council) and Browsholme Hall in Clitheroe, owned by the Parker family.

Burnley Council leader Mark Townsend said: “I think it is a good idea.

“Gawthorpe as a wedding venue would be complementary to Towneley Hall, not a competitor.

“It would increase choice in the borough for brides and grooms and could help make Burnley and Padiham a magnet for wedding couples.”

Burnley Central West County Cllr Tony Martin, whose division includes Gawthorpe Hall, said: “It’s an excellent idea.

“It may well be necessary to share the income with the National Trust.

Other suggestions include the county council building wind and solar farms to raise money by selling energy to the National Grid; using Tower Wood Outdoor Education Centre in the Lake District as a “high-quality” hotel and its counterpart Borwick Hall near Carnforth as a conference and weekend leisure centre.

Angie Ridgwell, county council chief executive, said: “We’re always looking at suitable ways to bring revenue into the county council. This includes uses for sites that we no longer need and ways to bring in extra revenue when sites are quieter, such as school holidays.”