A MULTI-MILLION pound project which will transform a town hall is on course, as negotiations between a council and the hall’s operators near completion.

Hitchin Town Hall will be turned into a district museum, with the main hall still being kept for community use. There will also be smaller meeting rooms, a caf� and a dedicated education and activity area.

Detailed negotiations between North Herts District Council (NHDC) and Hitchin Town Hall Ltd on the development agreement have been progressing during the course of the year and are now nearly completed.

It is planned for a report to be presented to a special council meeting on May 10 for ratification, with the hall scheduled to close for redevelopment in October.

Brent Smith, chairman of Hitchin Town Hall Ltd, said: “There are still some issues which need to be clarified and agreed but we are hopeful that these will be resolved before the full council meeting.

“We need to ensure that we are able to successfully operate the Town Hall for the benefit of all of us in Hitchin and the surrounding area.”

The company, which is hoping to apply for charitable status, is currently in talks with the Social Investment Bank with regard to the loan and grant drawdown.

David Leal-Bennett, director of Hitchin Town Hall Ltd, said that he believed the company had a robust business plan.

“We need to ensure that we are not constrained and we are now finalising the last issues which might impact the financial model,” he said.

“Once we have signed the development agreement with NHDC we will invite people to become members and will commence a fundraising campaign.

“We also need to get the message across of what is actually being constructed and hope to provide plans and schematics very shortly demonstrating that, once built, we will be ‘open for business’.”

The latest on the town hall was revealed at full council last Thursday, after Cllr Lawrence Oliver asked where proceedings stood.

Cllr Lynda Needham, leader of NHDC, said: “This has involved a significant amount of work for both Hitchin Town Hall Ltd and the relevant council officers. I am pleased that these negotiations are now substantially complete and, subject to any further requirements from Futurebuilders or other unforeseen issues, it is anticipated that a report will be presented to council.

“I would like to emphasise that this project is a truly innovative and widely supported endeavour. The recent announcement from the Heritage Lottery Fund that NHDC has been successful in securing a stage one pass in its application for �1m grant aid for fit out further illustrates the fact that funders have confidence that the council and its partners Hitchin Town Hall Ltd have the capacity to deliver the scheme which will preserve and enhance a much valued heritage asset and will significantly improve the quality and cost effectiveness of the Council’s museum service.”