Hitchin Town Hall: Still no indication when North Herts Museum might open, with public talks tomorrow night
- Credit: Archant
As the saga surrounding North Herts District Council’s new museum in Hitchin rumbles on, it still remains unclear when the it might formally open – with the matter set to be discussed in public view tomorrow night.
The new North Herts Museum at 14-15 Brand Street has been beset with difficulties over the last few years and has already cost taxpayers more than £1 million.
The saga saw a bitter fall out after Hitchin Town Hall Ltd – which was formed to oversee the running of the building on the council’s behalf, and previously held the lease to it – sought to recover losses incurred during a bitter legal dispute.
This led to HTH Finance, which insists it is separate from Hitchin Town Hall Ltd, buying the company’s debt and security.
Private discussions are ongoing, but the Comet understands taxpayers could have to foot an additional bill for up to £600,000 after the district council was outbid over plans to buy the entrance to the site – which is effectively the entrance to the museum.
The museum, housing collections from both Hitchin and Letchworth, remains closed – albeit with behind-the-scenes tours offered to the public.
Councillor Tony Hunter, the district council’s executive member for community engagement, announced at its last cabinet meeting on July 25 that a statement would be issued within a fortnight regarding a proposed date to open the new museum.
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But no statement has materialised – and yesterday morning a party styling itself the Future of Hitchin Town Hall & Museum social media pressure group requested urgent clarification from the district council’s chief executive David Scholes.
Responding on the council’s behalf today, Mr Hunter said: “Unfortunately we are not in a position where we can announce an opening date for the North Hertfordshire Museum, as negotiations are still ongoing regarding our proposed purchase of 14-15 Brand Street.
“Of course, we understand people’s frustrations and we had hoped for an earlier resolution, but we are still working through legal issues.”
A spokesman for HTH Finance told the Comet: “I do not think the question has really been answered.
“A proposal was put to North Herts District Council on July 27, and Hitchin Town Hall Ltd have recently stated to the leader of the council that they see no reason for any further confidentiality and that the public should be made aware of all details.
“The email from Stephen Pike, chairman of Hitchin Town Hall Ltd, stated: ‘Hitchin Town Hall Ltd and HTH Finance Ltd do not have any issue with the sharing of correspondence and documentation with your members. Indeed we would welcome this approach.’”
HTH Finance Ltd and Hitchin Town Hall Ltd are set to give presentations before full council at Letchworth’s Spirella Ballroom at 7.30pm tomorrow night, with members of the public welcome to attend.
For more about the museum project, see north-herts.gov.uk.