Document signed for North Herts Museum entrance sale after two-year stand-off
PUBLISHED: 11:42 22 January 2019 | UPDATED: 16:58 30 January 2019
The sale of Hitchin’s 14/15 Brand Street – the entrance to the North Hertfordshire Museum – to North Herts District Council has finally been completed after a two-year stand off.
Representatives from Hitchin Town Hall Limited and Hitchin Town Hall Finance met at the museum on Friday for a public signing, where they put pen to paper on the purchase documents.
“While it has been a difficult process, we are pleased to have reached an agreement with NHDC to the effect that the town hall is broadly protected for community use and that, if NHDC’s plans change, the community has an ongoing five-year period in which to purchase and operate the town hall,” said HTH Ltd chairman Stephen Pike.
A spokesman for HTH Finance added: “It was essential for quick action some two years ago and we were pleased to take over as the new banker to HTH, thus saving the museum entrance from being developed.
“This provided time and enabled HTH and the council to continue negotiations and to find an acceptable solution.”
They also thanked HTH Ltd director Brent Smith for his vision to incorporate 14/15 Brand Street, and John Ray for agreeing to sell the property.
There were no NHDC representatives at the signing, but in a statement after the signing, council leader Lynda Needham said: “I would like to personally thank the officers, past and present, who have worked tirelessly on this project in often difficult circumstances and whose professionalism and hard work has seen us reach this crucial stage.
“I would also like to thank the Museum team for their continued patience and understanding and trust that they can now look forward to the final months leading up to the full opening.
“Finally I would like to thank Councillor Hunter and former Councillor Tricia Cowley, for their dedication in driving forward the project.”
“HTH Ltd and HTH Finance Ltd were always aware that the council would not be attending as the deal needs to be concluded through our respective lawyers.
“In any event, Councillor Lynda Needham would not be the authorised signatory for such a document.”
Campaigner Jackie McDonald is hoping that a public inquiry will be held to find why there was a such a long delay in the agreement.
“I have spoken previously at both Cabinet and also the Overview and Scrutiny Committee back in 2017 with unanswered questions not resolved, but now that the deal has been officially signed and the museum will open the task now is to set about inistigating a full independent public inquiry to get to the truth on the financial overspend and for those responsible for this atrocity to be held to account.”