Celebration as community group reach agreement over Baldock Town Hall

Cllr Lynda Needham (l) hands over the keys to Alison Gentle, with NHDC councillors and members of BT

Cllr Lynda Needham (l) hands over the keys to Alison Gentle, with NHDC councillors and members of BTHG (l-r) Maureen Maddren, Cllr John Harris, Nick Maddren, Cllr Tony Hunter, Marilyn Kirkland, Rebecca Sunderland and Anna d'Onofrio - Credit: Archant

THE future of a town hall took a major step forward this week with an agreement reached between a council and a community group.

North Herts District Council (NHDC) and the Baldock Town Hall Group (BTHG) signed an agreement on June 21 for the transfer of the building to the group on a 99 year lease.

BTHG plans to ensure that the building will be used for the benefit of people from Baldock and beyond, primarily offering space for the development and performance of the creative and performing arts, and incorporating Baldock Museum.

Cllr Lynda Needham, leader of NHDC, said: “In addition to a lot of hard work by council officers, this agreement has been made possible by the significant efforts of the Baldock Town Hall Group. From the outset they have worked tirelessly to ensure that the future use of the town hall will be of benefit to the whole community, and for their efforts we are very grateful.

“The town hall will now undergo necessary works to return it to use, some of which will be funded by the council and the group, some undertaken by the group along with volunteers, probationers and apprentices to the building trade. It really is a fully-fledged community project to bring an important building back into use.”

Alison Gentle, chairman of BTHG, said: “BTHG is delighted that we have now signed a 99 year lease with NHDC. We have worked long and hard towards this moment for over two years and in that time have put together a viable business plan, approved by NHDC Cabinet, presenting our intention to reopen the town hall as an arts and heritage centre incorporating Baldock Museum into our ground floor reception areas, highlighting Baldock’s long and vibrant past.

“We would like to thank those at NHDC who have supported us throughout this time, with special thanks given to the leader of the council Cllr Lynda Needham, deputy leader Cllr Terry Hone, Baldock Cllr Michael Muir and Liz Green, head of policy and community services.

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“We have also gained the support of over 220 Friends of Baldock Town Hall since our initial appeal last year. It encourages us greatly to receive such support from our local community who have affirmed our belief that the town hall needed to be opened again.”

BTHG are already presenting a forward programme of events, with others being planned, which includes: A Victorian Command Performance – to celebrate the historic link to the town hall opening in 1897, an October fireside story telling festival their first professional event, Baldock Voices, bringing Baldock’s history to life and short play festival – in the Spring.

The group is now looking for volunteers who can offer their services or materials to help complete a full refurbishment programme, to which NHDC has committed funds, identified as both essential and necessary to ensure the building is fit for purpose.

Volunteers are also being sought to take part in any of the upcoming events. To get involved, visit the BHTG website at www.bthl.org.uk.

Alison added: “Thanks again to everyone who has given us their support and this includes fellow members at Baldock Town Hall who have dedicated hundreds of hours to make this happen.”