Hitchin Town Hall project hits brick wall
- Credit: Archant
A multi-million pound project to restore a town hall for community use has been “vandalised” by a council, according to the chairman of a company set up to oversee the build.
Brent Smith, chairman and trustee of Hitchin Town Hall Ltd, claims a brick wall has been erected on the stage which halves the space for community performances.
Mr Smith has told the Comet the wall, built by contractors on behalf of North Herts District Council (NHDC), is a breach of contract between Hitchin Town Hall Ltd and NHDC.
It was agreed between the two parties that if a wall was constructed – with space for storage of museum artefacts behind – it would be easy to remove without substantial cost involved.
But now trustees of Hitchin Town Hall Ltd – which was set up to turn the listed property, and 14 and 15 Brand Street, into a £4.39 million community facility and district museum – are faced with a stage divided by a concrete block wall with a new floor underneath, a ventilation plant and ductwork behind it – potentially causing problems with acoustics in the hall.
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“We were amazed to find the stage being cut through and a concrete block wall about to be built,” said Mr Smith. “We have not even been able to get NHDC to pause the work on the stage – there is now a concrete wall. This is vandalism. The council officers knew how important the reversing of their storage intervention on the stage is to us. We feel betrayed.
“This may not affect the commercial letting of the hall, but it will prevent future community use of the full stage, with no choirs or plays.
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“We took this on for the town to hold the lease for 125 years. We have levered more than £1 million into the project.
“We do not believe that the councillors would agree with the way in which this has been handled if they knew. They have supported the project throughout. There have been special meetings of the full council which have been very well attended and we have received unanimous support.”
A council spokesman said: “NHDC and Hitchin Town Hall Ltd are both parties to a development agreement which sets out the obligations of each of the partners in delivering this project. As with any contract, there have been a number of issues to resolve which we are continuing to address.”
The renovated town hall and accompanying district museum, which will bring together collections from Hitchin and Letchworth GC museums, is due to open in June next year.