SKIPTON Town Hall could have a new, modern entrance and public toilets by the end of the year.

Following last week's planning approval of the new entrance fronting onto Jerry Croft and incorporating toilets and disabled access lift, Craven District Council now has a six-week wait for the Secretary of State to rubber stamp it.

The council will then go out to tender and hopes to start demolishing the old toilet block and building its replacement as soon as possible.

The new zinc-clad building - around half the size of the current 60s built toilet block- and sweeping ramp entrance will represent a shift of focus for the hall, moving it from the High Street to Jerry Croft. It is also planned to relocate the tourist information office to that side of the building.

Coun Simon Myers, lead member for the town hall project, said it was likely Jerry Croft would have to be closed to traffic during periods of construction.

"We are mindful of the disruption this will cause and will aim to keep it to an absolute minimum, but we want to get this done as soon as we can," he said.

Once it is completed, it will mean Skipton Town Council - currently in cramped offices above Barclays Bank - can take up residence of the first floor where it already holds full meetings in the council chamber.

Meanwhile, work to replace the fire exit, also onto Jerry Croft and which has put a temporary limit on large scale gatherings, is taking longer than expected because of unforeseen structural problems with a door lintel.

"We are trying to find a way around it as soon as we can and are looking at a temporary solution, we don't anticipate it will be very long before it is sorted," he said.

Also ongoing is a full structural survey and plans are being worked up for the restaurant or cafe use of neighbouring 17-19 High Street, also owned by the council.

"We've had the To Let signs up for some time and know the kind of interest we are getting. We've also been told by retail consultants that without a shop window, the best use of the building is as a restaurant," said Coun Myers.

An application for change of use of the building will be submitted shortly, and once the new Jerry Croft entrance is finished, work will start on the restoration of the High Street entrance, including the front steps, which were adapted to make way for the disabled access.

First phase redevelopment of the town hall, including the restoration of window frames and replacement heating system, is covered by a £415,000 budget, but future more ambitious plans are dependent on a successful bid to the national lottery heritage fund.

Coun Myers said it was hoped that ultimately the hall would become self funding, would stop becoming a drain on council taxpayers and that a trust would be establish to run it.