Letchworth councillors back college’s town hall bid

COUNCILLORS voted unanimously in favour last night (Wednesday) of a college taking over a Grade II-listed building which has been empty for five years.

All members of the Letchworth area committee backed plans for Letchworth Town Hall - owned by North Herts District Council - to be leased to North Hertfordshire College (NHC) for a 25-year period.

If the proposal gets the go-ahead at Cabinet this summer, the building in Broadway could be used for display space and offices currently based at the college’s nearby Goldsmith Centre for Business, which would free up more space educational use in time for the start of the autumn term.

Summarising Letchworth GC councillors’ views, new area committee chairman Cllr David Levett said: “I think this committee is thoroughly in support of the proposal that we look at North Hertfordshire College as the preferred option.

“We fully support North Hertfordshire College going there and we wish to see the building kept in some form of public use and that the important features of the listed building are maintained. We hope it will be going through quickly and we will see the building back in use again.”

If the building comes back in to use it will need to be brought up to modern standards, including the installation of a lift. The committee also stressed the need for the town hall clock to be kept in working order with all four faces showing the correct time.

NHC has intimated that it would not need dedicated parking on site, which Cllr Mike Rice said would be beneficial for the town.

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He said: “It’s obvious if we sell or lease the property to anybody else we would lose revenue from car parking and the college has already got the car parking facilities there (at the Goldsmith Centre for Business). Car parking is a problem at the best of times.”

New vice-chairman Cllr John Booth added that it could make the town centre more vibrant.

He said: “It seems to me that the college will draw more people into Letchworth. When the college left Letchworth - apart from the Goldsmith Centre which is much smaller - we did lose considerable footfall in the shopping centre. Having more space in the Goldsmith Centre could help the town centre itself.”

Should the building not be let to NHC then, subject to Caninet approval, the council has proposed to market Letchworth Town Hall.

NHC has also been in discussion with Letchworth Garden City Heritage Foundation about temporary use of one its buildings.

The college would not be drawn on specific buildings but entertainment venue Plinston, also located in Broadway, has been shut since March with options for its future use expected to be revealed next month.

A spokesman for NHC said: “The college and the Heritage Foundation have been working together to find temporary accommodation whilst refurbishment is undertaken at the Hitchin campus – but as yet have nothing formally agreed.”

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