Campaigners win fight to save Baldock Town Hall

CAMPAIGNERS fighting to bring a town hall back into community use have won their first battle.

On Tuesday, North Herts District Council’s (NHDC) Cabinet agreed - subject to finances being secured - to give Baldock Town Hall on a long-term lease to a campaign group wanting to bring the historic building back into community use.

In March last year, the council decided the town hall, which has stood empty since 2009, was surplus to requirements.

The local authority gave Baldock Town Hall Ltd – a group made up of a number of the town’s organisations, including the Baldock Town and District Partnership – one year to come up with a viable business plan to secure the future of the building.

If it had failed, the council could have opted to sell the building.


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But on Tuesday, Cabinet members unanimously approved the business plan to use the town hall as an arts and heritage centre.

Provided funding to refurbish, restore and equip the building is found by the group, a long-term lease for the building will be given to them.

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They must provide a funding progress report to the council within nine to 12 months.

Alison Gentle, acting chairman of Baldock Town Hall Ltd, said the group is “delighted” at the news, explaining that the building will be used by both amateur arts groups and professional touring companies.

She added: “Baldock is one of the most important Roman towns in Western Europe.

“We hope that providing a heritage centre in the town hall will help to convey its significance to a wider public.

“There is also a shortage of meeting rooms, so we see the town hall also being used for business, social and educational gatherings.

“We will work with the community centre, which is already a well-used and important venue in the town.”

Baldock councillor Marilyn Kirkland spoke in support of the project at the meeting.

“There is so much talk of the Big Society – here is a chance for this council to be at the forefront of these community ideas,” she said.

“It could be argued that Baldock already has a community facility and numerous halls and could not sustain another, but the town hall would not compete with these.

“It would welcome a different focus and would attract people from Baldock and beyond.

“The community cares about this building and we will work together to make it work.”

Baldock councillor Michael Muir added: “I know they have got the whole town behind them.”

The campaign group will now focus on securing funding for the town hall’s regeneration, with the council promising to issue a ‘letter of intent’, which can be used by the group to apply for grants.

Cllr Terry Hone, NHDC’s portfolio holder for finance, said: “There are still a number of risks and issues to overcome.

“A significant amount of investment is needed.

“In these economic times we do not have the funds available, but we will do what we can to support the project.”

To become a friend of Baldock Town Hall Ltd, and for more information about the project, visit www.bthl.org.uk

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