Hitchin community groups react to multi-million pound restoration dispute
- Credit: Archant
Community groups have raised concerns about a dispute which has broken out over a multi-million pound restoration project.
A £4.39 million redevelopment to create a district-wide museum and community facility is ongoing at Hitchin Town Hall and the adjacent 14 and 15 Brand Street in Hitchin. It is expected to be complete by June 2015.
Last week it was revealed North Herts District Council (NHDC) and Hitchin Town Hall Ltd (HTHL), the two parties funding the scheme, were in dispute after a concrete wall was built in the town hall which halves the stage space for community performances.
The dividing wall has been built so museum artefacts – including items from both Hitchin and Letchworth GC museum collections – can be housed behind, but HTHL is unhappy with the permanent nature of the wall.
Jane Clark, chairman of Hitchin Society, said: “We and other community groups have been, and are, very supportive of the voluntary efforts made over the last few years by the directors and trustees of HTHL.
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“We cannot express strongly enough our dismay and outrage at seeing the vandalism recently done to the stage. The building of a concrete block wall across the whole width of the stage effectively precludes the use of the stage for the performing arts.”
Phil Rowe, chairman of Hitchin Historical Society, said: “It would seem that there has been a breakdown of goodwill between the two partners – HTHL and NHDC.
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“This kind of disagreement between the two parties will surely cause inevitable delays. We are very anxious to see the new district museum open as soon as possible.
“We urge both NHDC and HTHL to work collaboratively and openly, as we believe this is the only way that such a complex project can be successfully delivered.”
HTHL told the Comet that NHDC strategic director John Robinson has sent an email to all Hitchin councillors telling them that advice on any issues will be taken from council officers because HTHL is incapable of a “balanced or comprehensive picture of the concerns they are expressing”.
Responding to the email, Brent Smith, chairman of HTHL, said: “This statement implies that HTHL is incapable of telling the truth and that councillors should only listen to officers. Do the public really think that Mr Robinson is the only person who is capable of understanding the issues and he should be the sole arbiter on any dispute?”
The Comet contacted NHDC but a spokesman declined to comment any further having said last week that “there have been a number of issues to resolve which we are continuing to address.”