Hitchin hall recommended for demolition

A COUNCIL is likely to agree to the demolition of a Hitchin community facility next week, without any plans yet put in place for its replacement.

Proposals in North Herts District Council’s (NHDC) Community Halls Strategy outline plans to demolish Bancroft Hall.

It’s this strategy that is recommended for approval by NHDC’s Cabinet on Tuesday, despite a supposed shortage of community space in the town and no plans currently to replace it.

Cllr Judi Billing, chairman of Hitchin area committee, said: “The report going to Cabinet is desperately disappointing as it relates to the future, not only of Bancroft Hall, but also its loyal users.

“The building is old, unpleasant and no longer fit for purpose, but it needs a modern replacement somewhere in the vicinity and the council is simply not listening.”

Hitchin area committee has recommended to Cabinet that a review of figures cited by NHDC with regard to floor space and provision of facilities be reviewed, following a presentation made by Hitchin Bridge Club.

The club, which regularly uses the hall, hopes to use its charity status to fund a new facility.

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“The report also continues to assert that there is only one affected organisation, and this again is simply not true. A number of organisations have expressed their concerns and once again have been ignored,” added Cllr Billing.

“We will be doing all we can to try and persuade the council to think again, and leave Bancroft Hall alone until a suitable alternative can be identified which genuinely meets the needs of local people and organisations.”

Cllr Tricia Cowley, portfolio holder for community engagement, said: “The council has been looking carefully at its community halls to ensure they give residents the best value for money. That has to be our priority.

“Bancroft Hall in Hitchin is recognised to be nearing the end of its life, needs significant investment to bring it up to the required standard, and is currently being underused. Over the last few months we have spoken to local community groups to see if they would be able to maintain the hall, but we have not had any formal proposal to do so.

“Comments from Hitchin area committee will be presented to Cabinet next week, and clearly it’s important that they consider those views in making any decision. Equally important, however, is that occupancy rates in our community halls are maximised.

“It’s better, more cost effective, and sustainable in the longer term to have a smaller number of facilities that are being used to their optimum capacity rather than a larger number of halls that are used less frequently.”