Planning row at Hitchin Town Hall

Hitchin town hall

Hitchin town hall - Credit: Archant

A multi-million pound project to restore a town hall for community use has come under fire again amid concerns that a council has not gained listed planning consent for some of the works.

Community groups and members of the public raised concerns about work that is being carried out at Hitchin Town Hall and 14 and 15 Brand Street during meetings with Hitchin councillors on Tuesday.

In March the Comet reported that a brick wall was erected on the stage which halves the space for community performances, claimed by Hitchin Town Hall Ltd (HTHL) as a breach of its contract with North Hertfordshire District Council (NHDC), which is overseeing the £4.39m project.

Now Hitchin Forum has claimed that pipework for the foyer of the Grade II-listed town hall has not had the necessary approval from English Heritage.

Chairman Mike Clarke said: “The latest news is of pipework in the foyer which spoils the ceiling and electrical cabling in the adjoining area, for which the council do not have listed building planning permission.

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“We are aware that the original council plan was for the town hall to be used solely for the district museum, about which there was a loud local protest, but it now seems that through negligence the town hall, treasured by Hitchin people, is being damaged, bit by bit. We hope that the council can review the situation with Hitchin councillors and HTHL and stop the rot.”

A spokesman for HTHL said: “We are continuing detailed discussions with NHDC and have raised many of these issues. We are very concerned that the listed building consent (LBC) wasn’t obtained prior to work being undertaken. We will be receiving a copy of LBC shortly and at that time will take whatever action is necessary to ensure that there is compliance with LBC and planning and that it accords with the development agreement and Hitchin Town Hall’s essential requirements.”

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Cllr Tony Hunter, NHDC’s portfolio holder for community engagement and rural affairs said: “Work is progressing on the regeneration of Hitchin Town Hall in accordance with the development agreement with Hitchin Town Hall Ltd and the planning permission and listed building consents which have been granted.

“The council’s architects will shortly be submitting a further application for Listed Building Consent which is normal practice with a build of this nature.”

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