TOWN councillors in Huntingdon could ask their district colleagues for £1million to avoid a potential legal row and help restore the town hall. Huntingdon Town Council is preparing to take ownership of the hall from Huntingdonshire District Council after

TOWN councillors in Huntingdon could ask their district colleagues for £1million to avoid a potential legal row and help restore the town hall.

Huntingdon Town Council is preparing to take ownership of the hall from Huntingdonshire District Council after its finance committee agreed on Thursday, February 11 to accept £600,000 from the Courts Service.

The money will give the town council some of the funding needed to restore the 18th century building which was previously leased to the Courts Service.

However, the town council could also seek some money from HDC after it voted at the same meeting to seek legal advice about Huntingdon Leisure Centre.

The centre, run by HDC, stands on land owned by the town council (next to St Peter's School) which is leased to the district.

The town council says the district has broken the terms of this lease by disbanding the leisure centre management committee - which should include town councillors.

Discussions over the breach have been going on for over a year and town council finance committee chairman Councillor Douglas Adams told the meeting it was now time for action.

One solution was suggested by Cllr Tom Sanderson who said if HDC was to offer the town council a sum of money towards restoring Huntingdon Town Hall to its former glory, then the land on which the centre stands could (in effect) be offered in exchange. That land is worth about £1million.

Huntingdon's town clerk, Karen Cameron said: "The two matters of the town hall and the leisure centre are quite separate. However, I understand there is no finance available from the district council for investment in the town hall so it would be unrealistic to expect it."

But she added: "As we contributed just under £1m to the leisure centre, we would like a say in how it is run. We want the district council to reinstate the management committee and if not we might propose they buy out our share and we may well use that money to restore the town hall.

"We are asking our solicitors to inform HDC that we want the management committee reinstated and if not we would like to discuss a financial contribute in recognition of our investment."

A spokesman for HDC said: "We are the freeholder of the town hall and hold the building in trust for the public good. We have no liability for maintenance, repair or making good works.

"On the leisure centre, have not heard from the town council, so not appropriate to comment until we have heard from them and heard what they have to say."

Cllr Adams also told Thursday's meeting that the town council had sufficient funds to renovate the building - and could also apply for grants - so that the net cost to taxpayers would be "absolutely nil" - though the renovation could cost in the region of £1m.

He recommended setting up a management committee to oversee the project.