Town hall could change hands for £1

HUNTINGDON Town Hall could be sold for £1. The town council, which has been seeking the return of the building for five years, wants to buy it back once it is no longer needed as a magistrates court. The building could be turned into a heritage centre wi

HUNTINGDON Town Hall could be sold for £1.

The town council, which has been seeking the return of the building for five years, wants to buy it back once it is no longer needed as a magistrates' court.

The building could be turned into a heritage centre with tourist information and a coffee bar - or it could be used as new offices for Huntingdon Town Council, currently based in Hartford Road.

These were some of the suggestions made after a survey of Huntingdon residents carried out by the town council two years ago.


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The three-storey building, dating from 1745, in Huntingdon's Market Square is owned by Huntingdonshire District Council, which acquired it from the old borough council of Huntingdon and Godmanchester when local government was reorganised in 1974.

The Magistrates Courts Service leases it from the district council.

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The magistrates' courts are on the ground floor, there are offices on the first floor, and the town council's council chamber, mayor's parlour and assembly room on the second floor.

In 2001, when the Magistrate's Court Service wanted to find more suitable premises, the town council wrote to the district council asking for first refusal on the occupation of the town hall when it became vacant.

Now, five years on, and with the magistrates' and Crown courts set to move into the new law court building in Walden Road in the spring, the town council is hoping to bring this plan into action.

Town clerk Mike Kennedy said it was impossible to say how much the building would cost to run because they did not yet know what they would use it for - but there were plenty of options.

He said: "There are other instances of town halls being sold back to town councils for £1 - in Chippenham and Trowbridge in Wiltshire, for example. I understand there will be talks at the district council this week to consider this offer."

The building needs work. More than £500,000 needs to be spent on repairs according to a condition study commissioned by the Department for Constitution Affairs, which runs the court service.

Access to the upper floors is difficult. The town council's plan to install a lift, costing £120,000, was abandoned at the last minute in 2003 because the massive piling needed to support the lift shaft would be too close to the Market Inn pub.

Last week, the town council's finance committee decided unanimously to ask the district council to sell them the town hall for a nominal sum.

A spokesman for Huntingdonshire District Council said: "No decision has been made. The discussions continue.

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