Uncertainty over community halls future

THE future of two North Hertfordshire community halls looks uncertain, after a council admitted that it was not sustainable to keep them running.

Bancroft Hall, situated in Hitchin’s Bancroft Gardens and Brotherhood Hall in Letchworth GC are both said to be nearing the end of their operational life.

With developments planned for the surrounding areas, it could be that both are demolished before that.

But North Herts District Council (NHDC) has said that it has no plans to either refurbish or replace them and has claimed that to do so would possibly be “disadvantaging the wider tax paying population of the district”.

“I continue to be concerned that it’s ok to close down a facility, which although past its sell by date, proves valuable to the community,” said Cllr Judi Billing.

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“We know that Hitchin Town Hall will close for quite a considerable amount of time, so we will be short. There’s not enough space for people to use. We’re being told that there’s more than enough but actually it’s not the case.”

Hitchin Bridge Club, which uses Bancroft Hall, gained charitable status earlier this year and has offered to fund an alternative community venue funded by themselves either in the park or elsewhere.

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But the group, which has put forward two proposals to NHDC, has not yet had their offer taken up.

“We’ve put forward two propositions to the council and we’ve now managed to get a meeting with them,” said chairman Margaret Eddleston.

“We will hopefully start talking about those possibilities and other possibilities for community facilities in the town.

“If we lose Bancroft Hall, we will be without a facility or anywhere to relocate to.”

Letchworth GC’s Brotherhood Hall is used by a number of groups and charities, including North Herts Centre for Voluntary Service, who run a coffee bar there for the community several days a week.

“I’m shocked and rightly alarmed at this news,” said volunteer Sue Moss.

“We’ve been based at Brotherhood Hall for 28 years as a non-profit making organisation.

“It would be drastic not to mention hard on all of our volunteers losing their slots. It would have a dramatic impact.”

NHDC claimed that there was currently an over provision of community facilities, resulting in no need to replace the facilities.

“The council has been looking carefully at its community facilities and whether they give residents the best value for money,” said Cllr Tricia Cowley, NHDC portfolio holder for community engagement and rural affairs.

“Bancroft Hall in Hitchin and Brotherhood Hall in Letchworth are both underused and are subsidised by taxpayers. Our statistics show a current over provision of community facilities in both Hitchin and Letchworth, making their replacement at the end of their life unnecessary.

“Although Hitchin Bridge Club has expressed an interest in running new premises they have yet to make a formal offer to the council.”

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