North Hertfordshire Museum: Crunch time for 14/15 Brand Street deal

PUBLISHED: 12:06 24 September 2018 | UPDATED: 12:12 24 September 2018

Hitchin Town Hall and the would-be entrance to the North Hertfordshire Museum at 14/15 Brand Street. Picture: Danny Loo

Hitchin Town Hall and the would-be entrance to the North Hertfordshire Museum at 14/15 Brand Street. Picture: Danny Loo

Danny Loo Photography 2018

A deal could finally be imminent in the North Hertfordshire Museum entrance fiasco, district council papers suggest.

According to the report from North Herts District Council deputy chief executive Anthony Roche, a deal for the district council to acquire 14/15 Brand Street from charity Hitchin Town Hall Ltd is now being held up only by the wording of a single point.

Hitchin Town Hall Ltd was formed in 2012 to help raise funds for and work in partnership with the district council on the latter’s Hitchin Town Hall revamp and North Herts Museum project.

But the two partners fell out amid much acrimony over the construction by district council contractors of a brick wall across the town hall stage in 2014.

The district council has got the town hall and museum open, but there are access issues for part of the latter facility as Hitchin Town Hall Ltd owns 14/15 Brand Street – which had been intended as the museum entrance – and has fenced it off since August 2016, pending negotiations for the district council to acquire it.

A price of £550,000 was agreed in March 2017 for the district council to buy 14/15 Brand Street, but no deal has been completed.

The Comet understands the point on which negotiations have snagged relates to the people of Hitchin being guaranteed five years to buy Hitchin Town Hall if the district council ever elects to dispose of it – something Hitchin Town Hall Ltd and bankers HTH Finance Ltd are adamant must be enshrined in a rolling hold.

Mr Roche’s report to the district council’s cabinet, ahead of tomorrow night’s meeting, was written before the latest proposal from Hitchin Town Hall Ltd and HTH Finance Ltd. The Comet understands this was a “take it or leave it” offer.

In Mr Roche’s report, he says a scenario in which cabinet favours the proposal from Hitchin Town Hall Ltd and HTH Finance Ltd would see Hitchin Town Hall Ltd need to gain approval from shareholders at an extraordinary general meeting – something Mr Roche says the charity has pencilled in for October 30.

If this is secured, the district council cabinet could consider the deal in November. Approval would also be required from the cabinet’s sub-committee on council charities before the final deal could be signed.

Alternatively, cabinet’s resolution in June to recommend an attempted compulsory purchase order for 14/15 Brand Street could be taken to the next meeting for all council members on November 22.

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