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Craven councillors reject own town hall plan
Efforts by Craven District Council to increase the variety of potential tenants for Skipton Town Hall and reduce costs for tax payers have been scuppered.
The council had hoped to get approval for the change of use of ground-floor rooms to a variety of uses, including shops, offices and drinking establishments.
But at last Wednesday’s planning committee meeting, the application was thrown out – leaving the council with the option of appealing against itself.
Angry Skipton councillors criticised the plans for being premature and without authority – despite being told the plans related to just 17 per cent of the ground floor and that any final decision on future uses of the town hall would be made by the council’s policy committee.
Coun Paul English (Lib Dem, Skipton West) said had the plan been submitted by any developer other than the council itself, it would have been immediately refused.
He added it went against the wishes of the town council to retain the hall as a community asset, and could open the doors to uses such as wine bars.
“Once this goes through, without a single condition, what are we going to end up with at the town hall? It is our community hall,” he said.
“If this goes through, people could come along and do anything, it would be a complete unknown.”
But after the meeting, Coun Simon Myers (Con, Gargrave and Malhamdale), who has special responsibility for the town hall, said officers had been tasked with carrying out an options appraisal and the decision of the meeting had slowed any possible progress.
“There was no presupposition in the application, which was simply intended to give us the widest possible range of options,” he said. “The application was turned down without any real planning grounds.
“It doesn’t really help us in approaching potential business partners to have the council appearing to act in such as capricious manner.
“It is ironic that some of the members against this application were for so many years members of the administration which wasted huge sums of public money on hair-brained schemes while neglecting our greatest community asset.”
The committee also turned down the change of use of 17 High Street, next to the town hall, which it had been hoped could have been used to subsidise community use of the town hall.
“The aim is to improve and enhance public access to the building, to improve the museum and other facilities, and this will cost a lot of money. We would also like to find a way of reducing the £300,000 per annum which it currently costs the tax payers of Craven,” added Coun Myers.
“I regard the restoration and improvement of this long neglected building as a matter of highest priority. It will, if handled properly, make a huge contribution to the cultural and economic well being of Craven. Sadly, it may be that some more interested in portraying themselves to their electorate as the guardians of Skipton Town Hall for the benefit of a headline, rather than actually working to see it reborn.”
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