Uncertainty over future of two historic Hitchin buildings

Hitchin Citizen's Advice Bureau at Thomas Bellamy house on Bedford Road.

Hitchin Citizen's Advice Bureau at Thomas Bellamy house on Bedford Road. - Credit: Daniel Wilson

Concerns have been raised by residents about the future of two historic Hitchin buildings after it was revealed they could be sold.

Hitchin Museum

Hitchin Museum - Credit: Archant

Members of the public attending Hitchin Town Talk on Tuesday were told that Thomas Bellamy House in Bedford Road and Charnwood House – the former Hitchin Museum – in Paynes Park could be sold by North Herts District Council (NHDC).

Cabinet members at the council are due to meet in August to discuss the future of the two buildings as part of its asset disposable and community asset transfer policy.

June LeSueur, of Wratten Road East, raised concerns during the meeting about the possibility of the Citizens Advice Bureau and a drugs support group, which currently use Thomas Bellamy House, being left homeless if the building is sold off.

Ms LeSueur told the Comet afterwards that she has made an application to register both Thomas Bellamy House and Charnwood House as an asset of community value – giving community groups the opportunity to buy each property for public benefit.

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Charnwood House, currently occupied by museum staff who will move to Hitchin Town Hall where a district-wide museum is expected to open in 2015, was donated to Hitchin by the Moss family to be used as a museum or library.

Ms LeSueur added: “We do not have an information centre or a centralised hub for charities or people to go to get information on local community groups and I believe the use of these two properties should be retained.

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“If Charnwood House is not going to be used for a museum or library it should go back to the family or be kept for the people of Hitchin – not for NHDC to sell it off and make a financial gain on it.”

Robin Dartington from Keep Hitchin Special pressed the chairman of the meeting, Cllr Ray Shakespeare-Smith, to ensure that both properties would be discussed at the next Hitchin area committee prior to Cabinet making a decision – something which he agreed to.

Mr Dartington said: “It would be quite deplorable to consider the properties for disposal without it coming to the area committee. We now have until June 10 – the next area committee meeting – to come up with a plan and ideas on how we want to use the two building and present it to the area committee. I favour calling a public meeting to start a public consultation on how the buildings should be used.”

Cllr Terry Hone, NHDC portfolio holder for finance said: “Thomas Bellamy House and Hitchin Museum are both on the council’s list of potential assets for disposal. Hitchin Museum is currently occupied by staff preparing for the move to the new North Herts Museum, therefore it is not yet deemed surplus to requirements.

“A report is due to go to cabinet later this year for a decision on the potential disposal of Thomas Bellamy House, following which Hitchin Area Committee will be given the opportunity to express their views.

“Both properties have been registered as assets of community value, meaning that if they are approved for disposal, community groups will have the right to bid to buy the properties, although cabinet will make the final decision regarding who to dispose to.”

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