Hitchin Town Hall saga could soon be over – but it will cost taxpayers more money

PUBLISHED: 09:57 22 January 2016 | UPDATED: 09:57 22 January 2016

Hitchin Town Hall

Hitchin Town Hall

Archant

Plans that could help speed up the opening of the controversial Hitchin Town Hall project have been revealed – but with a significant cost to the taxpayer.

The troubled project to renovate Hitchin Town Hall and open a museum which has been dogged by overspending, disagreements, and threats of legal action has seen a new twist – one which could cost even more money to North Herts taxpayers.

Now, North Herts District Council is looking to purchase the site of the town hall from Hitchin Town Hall Ltd – the group originally formed to run the project – is seeking receivership.

Bankers acting on behalf of the group could then seek to maximise the value of the group’s assets by selling the site of the town hall, situated at 14/15 Brand Street.

The money could then be used to settle the outstanding claim HTH Ltd is making against the council after a bitter falling out, and result in the town hall and museum opening.

However, if the council was to buy the Brand Street site back from HTH Ltd, taxpayers money would be used to fund the purchase – with the site potentially being valued at a six figure sum.

Councillor Tony Hunter said: “Although the council does have an option to open the facility without use of 14 and 15 Brand Street, this would create additional costs, delays, restrictions in the use of the building and could limit revenue income once open.

“Despite the council’s best efforts to find a resolution to the dispute with Hitchin Town Hall Ltd, no sensible proposals which provide best value for money for council tax payers have been put on the table.

“Councillors therefore voted in favour of seeking to secure ownership of 14 and 15 Brand Street to ensure we can complete the development as soon as possible, for the benefit of the community.”

North Herts Labour leader Frank Radcliffe told the Comet: “It’s a shame we’ve got to this situation in the first place.

“We’ve been put in this situation by the ruling Tory party and we have to do the best we can.

“It’s the best solution for the council in the long term.”

The Comet has asked for a response from HTHL and is awaiting a response.

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