Councillors grilled on Hitchin Town Hall and museum delays at public meeting

The audience assembles for a meeting on Hitchin Town Hall at The Sun Hotel.

The audience assembles for a meeting on Hitchin Town Hall at The Sun Hotel. - Credit: Archant

A public meeting called to discuss the future of Hitchin Town Hall and the new North Herts district museum saw more than 50 people come through the doors to grill councillors on the reasons for delays in opening the Brand Street community facility.

The gathering at the Sun Hotel in Sun Street was organised by Jackie McDonald, who is standing as an independent candidate in the Hitchin Priory ward May’s North Herts District Council elections.

The panel answering questions was formed of district councillors Richard Thake, David Leal-Bennett and Simon Harwood, as well as the chairman of the group which was originally formed to oversee the site, Stephen Pike from Hitchin Town Hall Ltd.

When quizzed on the delay in a museum launch date, Mr Pike admitted: “We still don’t know when it will open.”

There has also been a backlash after revelations that the site is to hold a the annual civic reception hosted by council chairman Councillor Ray Shakespeare-Smith before it is open to the public. The bill for tomorrow night’s event is expected to be around £7,000.

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Councillor Judi Billing, who was in the audience, said: “I remember when the chairman’s event was on a smaller scale. I can’t see why it can’t be scaled down.”

Before the meeting the council confirmed the Town Hall part of the site is set to open ‘by May’ but it has been previously reported that it is costing taxpayers more than £28,000 every month it remains shut.

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The project is already more than £1m over budget.

Ms McDonald said: “I’m excited about the Town Hall opening in May, and the museum as well once legal proceedings are satisfied.

“We’ve been without a museum for four years and a town hall for three years.

“I’d like to thank everyone for coming and I feel the event was a great success. I would also like to thank Patsi Walsh, Debbie Murrell and Keith Catchpole.”

You can view a video shot by Hitchin TV at the meeting above.

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