A testing time for town hall
THE FUTURE of a town hall looks set for commercial use despite a petition from residents to keep it for the community. The hall was under discussion at the Baldock area committee meeting last week and a collective decision to identify private sector use o
THE FUTURE of a town hall looks set for commercial use despite a petition from residents to keep it for the community.
The hall was under discussion at the Baldock area committee meeting last week and a collective decision to identify private sector use or a combination of commercial and community was made by councillors.
This is despite a petition submitted to North Herts District Council stating 89 per cent of residents wanted to keep it solely for community use.
Cllr Ian Knighton said: "It's quite clearly an emotive and difficult subject and the town hall building is a vital part of the town centre.
"It's quite clearly a building people have been trying to bring back into use but I do think we have to be realistic in what we can achieve."
Architectural firm Widdup/Amer has conducted a feasibility study suggesting commercial use of the space could include a restaurant franchise - despite the abundance of restaurants already located in the small town.
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Cllr Steve Jarvis said: "They haven't suggested anything that would be a great asset to the town."
Full community use of the town hall has not yet been ruled out but will only be explored if market testing to determine further commercial ventures and the viability of mixed commercial and community use prove unsatisfactory.
The study suggests community use could include a café, an enlarged museum or exhibition space and a youth club.
But significant concern was raised in the study as to whether the town could sustain two community facilities - the town hall and the community centre.
However, Cllr Michael Muir said: "I think to sell the building for peanuts just to get a commercial interest is wrong.
"The town hall at the present time is used virtually every night of the week.
"It's rented out a little cheaper than normal but it's made a profit of £8,000 over the last couple of years even at this low rate.
"I'm quite certain we can use that facility as the community centre here is totally booked up."
The results of the market testing for possible commercial ventures and a mixed use of the site will be discussed at the area committee's next meeting on October 23.