Community group forms to save former Hitchin museum

Hitchin Museum

Hitchin Museum - Credit: Archant

A community group is set to form to take over a former museum building as an educational community centre.

The Charnwood Community Management Association (CCMA), which will have a written constitution, will be formed of members of the public and a board of trustees. It will look to manage Charnwood House – the former Hitchin Museum – in Paynes Park, which is at threat of being sold off by North Herts District Council (NHDC) as part of its asset disposable and community asset transfer policy.

In March, the Comet reported concerns raised by members of the public at a meeting of Hitchin Town Talk after councillors said that the historic building could be sold by the land owner NHDC.

On Tuesday, NHDC’s Cabinet members discussed the draft policy around its asset disposable and community asset transfer policy.

Hitchin resident Robin Dartington, who is trying to establish the association with three other Hitchin residents, said: “It was good that Cabinet listened to the problems that the draft policy would have caused for community groups willing to take on responsibility for managing sites and buildings cherished by the community.

“But the council seems still a long way from recognising that community management is a new concept that could have far reaching benefits if people with relevant business experience are willing to volunteer.

“Community services could be widened in scope, with greater efficiency but less cost, with much better understanding of what local people need.”

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Charnwood House has served Hitchin residents as a museum and library since being gifted in 1937 by the Moss family to benefit residents.

Mr Dartington said he feels Hitchin has been diminished by the sale of key public buildings that asserted its character as a market town – particularly the Corn Exchange and the old town hall.

He said: “Charnwood is a prominent icon of community benefit to Hitchin and further loss must be avoided. Although Hitchin has three community centres and several church halls, there is no central meeting place that belongs to the community and which is the foremost choice for meetings of educational groups that serve the whole of the Hitchin community.”

An inauguration meeting of the association with community groups will be held in a few weeks time, followed by an open meeting.