Planning application for restoration of Hitchin Town Hall granted with conditions

A planning application for the restoration of Hitchin Town Hall was approved last night.

A planning application for the restoration of Hitchin Town Hall was approved last night. - Credit: Archant

Restoration work carried out on Hitchin Town Hall has been agreed retrospectively despite strong objections from community groups.

An application for alterations to the Grade-II listed building which were carried out without permission was granted by members of North Herts District Council’s planning control committee last night in a 13 to one vote in favour of the work.

The plans were submitted by Buttress, the company appointed by NHDC as the project’s architects, after pipework within the Brand Street building was installed in the ceiling of the foyer without the necessary approval from English Heritage.

The proposals form part of a wider £4.39 million project to turn the building into a community facility and district museum serving Hitchin and Letchworth.

Buttress architect Neil Charlton said: “The key thing here is to make sure that the building is put back into viable use. The whole idea of this scheme and of spending more than £4 million on this project is to make sure that the town hall is fit for purpose and usable.

“To make sure that it’s accessible for disabled people and to make sure that these things work. That is the reason why all this work is being done. What is happening here is for the benefit of North Hertfordshire through a local authority-owned building with a local authority delivering the project. I am their architect and I am looking to deliver this on time and on budget and it is as simple as that.”

Hitchin Town Hall Limited and Hitchin Historical Society representatives both raised their objections to the works which had been recommended for approval by council officers.

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David Parsley of Hitchin Town Hall Limited said: “Despite this application talking throughout about proposed solutions, a substantial part of the work has been done. The fact that this application is before us at all at this late stage demonstrates poor project control and a lack of communication at all levels.

“These works might have gone on unchallenged were it not for the outrage expressed by HTH and community groups when it was realised that Buttress had allowed inappropriate and unsympathetic service provision to be undertaken by the contractor for it.

“If this committee does not stop this travesty and approves this application, the people of North Herts will feel there is one law for people who own listed buildings and a completely different one for NHDC and that they cannot be trusted with our heritage.”

Hitchin Historical Society Chairman Phil Rowe: “I ask you to search your consciences this evening and then say honestly you’d be happy to take no action and to let them carry on. I’m sure you’d be outraged, as we are all outraged. Just as you wouldn’t countenance such a travesty on your own home, ask yourself why you should now approve this application for listed building consent on a much-loved building in your care. There is an alternative, make them put it right.”

Conditions were made to the colour scheme, relaid floorboards, pipework and the entrance hall to “preserve the special character of the listed building”.