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Changing face of community focal points
12:17pm Thursday 14th June 2012 in Our View
For decades they have been the beating heart of our communities, acting as the political, cultural and retail hub of the town where they were built often more than 150 years ago. They have withstood world wars, changing fashions and political change, but our town halls have never experienced anything like the upheaval of modern times.
Town halls, like those in Skipton and Settle, were once a demonstration of civic pride – a bold architectural statement placed right in the middle of the main street. Yet, the reality is, these grand buildings would probably never be built today – and certainly not in the same way or in the same location.
As local authorities have merged and centralised, so the need for a base in every town has dissipated. Where they do still have headquarters, councils now prefer blander and more practical office blocks.
At the same time, our town halls are struggling to adapt to modern retail and cultural requirements.
Now, faced with crumbling buildings that cost a small fortune to heat and maintain, Craven District Council has looked to hand over control of these valuable assets.
This week we report how Settle Town Hall is entering a new era under private ownership . There were concerns about the future of the building when it was put on the market, but the arrival of a new Tourist Information Centre and the sympathetic ongoing restoration of the building suggests that it may have been a good move for the town.
Meanwhile, a different option beckons for Skipton Town Hall, which looks set to be taken over by a trust. We hope this move will similarly bring a new lease of life to a building that remains a vital part of the town it serves.
In their original form, town halls may be a relic from our past, but they can and should enjoy a vibrant and relevant future.