HUNTINGDON’S Georgian town hall has been restored and a lift added for nearly 15 per cent less than the town council had budgeted.

The council pays a peppercorn rent to Huntingdonshire District Council, which actually owns the building, for the unexpired balance of a 999-year lease originally granted to HM Courts Service, which used the building for magistrates' hearings.

The completion of the town hall work has also mean the town council can save money on its former offices in Trinity Place on which the lease had expired.

At the opening of the new offices last week, finance committee chairman Councillor John Skerry said the work had been done for £720,000, a saving of £120,000 on the £840,000 budget.

As well as refurbishing the 1745 building's roof and installing a four-person, wheelchair-accessible internal lift, the town council has redecorated the assembly room and refurbished its chandeliers.

"We're now hoping to have a lot more functions in the town hall," Cllr Skerry told The Hunts Post.

Court One will have the bullet-proof screen removed from the dock and will be restored to the Assize Court and quarter sessions that it was before it was replaced by the Crown Court system in 1972. It is expected to be made available for seminars, presentations and small film showings, or for training budding lawyers in what to expect in the courtroom.

The old Court Two, which is of less historical importance, will become a meeting space to be made available to local businesses, charities and others.

"Getting the town hall back into use has got to be good for the town and for businesses nearby," Cllr Skerry added. "We could do with more restaurants in the town."