SKIPTON Town Hall is currently undergoing a substantial transformation.

Indeed, the around a million pounds so far invested in the building is the largest amount to be spent on the listed Victorian hall in decades. A new side entrance has been built, with LED information display, and the ugly 1960s toilet block removed. At the front, the disabled person's lift, unused for years, has also been removed and replaced at the back, while the steps have been rebuilt.

Inside, a new heating system has been fitted, tourist information relocated closer to the new side entrance and just this week, Craven councillors rubber-stamped the spending of £180,000 on the replacement of the front section of the roof. Further expense to replace the rest of the roof is expected in the next few years.

An Arts Council grant of £250,000 will be used to improve the main hall, with new lighting and sound systems, and digital broadcasting equipment to 'vastly improve' the quality of arts and culture at the hall.

Craven District Council, which three years ago decided against handing over management of the hall to a historical trust and keeping it 'in-house', has also been awarded an initial £98,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund as the first step in receiving a further £1.4 million.

Skipton Town Council has now taken up residence of the first floor, after many years suffering cramped conditions in the High Street, and plans are well advanced for family restaurant, Wildwood, to move into the space formerly occupied by tourist information, and all three floors of the next door annexe. After decades of being a financial drain for the council, there are now hopes that the hall will become self-funding, and a cultural and entertainment hub for the whole of Craven.

Back in 1966, there were also changes planned for the hall, including a scheme to demolish it entirely and start again with a modern 'cultural centre' and public hall.

The then Skipton Urban District Council, which was to disappear a few years later under the re-organisation of local government, was busy considering a number of options to improve and adapt the hall.

A report to its public works committee reviewed nine schemes, including the ambitious demolition and replacement. It was estimated that cost of the scheme would be around £200,000 and that the best way to proceed would be to secure a 30-year loan. Various councillors decided it would be of benefit to the town - more so than new swimming baths. One suggested the building be sold off and the money used to build again somewhere else in the town.

However, caution seemed to win at the end of the day, with the majority deciding it was a large amount of money to commit to and there would be nothing left in the pot to fill the hall, or cultural centre.

A less ambitious scheme, and the one that appeared to have been adopted, as it resembles closely the building as it is today, was a scheme to improve the frontage of the hall, which was to see the removal of car parking and the creation of pedestrian walkways and planters.

A scheme, prepared for the council by its surveyor, Mr KB Robinson, came up with ideas to provide seating and walkways for pedestrians. Mr Robinson took the matter very seriously, pointing out to councillors it was not simply a matter of providing seats. Unless great care was taken, the seating would look out of place and artificial. They must, under no circumstances look like the seating from a 'charabanc' or a concert hall.

Car parking at the front was to be eliminated entirely and no fencing would be allowed, as that would restrict access by pedestrians. Seats and flower boxes could be positioned close together to stop cars from being parked, but would result in an undesirable cluttered look. As an alternative, Mr Robinson suggested that a paved area should be created, with a high kerb between it and the High Street.

He further considered limited vehicular access to the front of the hall, for the delivery of distinguished guests on civic occasions.

Moving to the subject of advertising, he said there was a good case to argue that the front should be used for some sort of advertising. But while it made sense for the public to be able to see clearly what events were coming up, and when, it needed to be done in a tasteful way. The modern trend towards floodlighting public buildings was considered acceptable, and it was suggested that both the porch and balcony should be illuminated.

Window boxes were, however, ruled out as old fashioned with flower boxes on the forecourt believed to be sufficient. Mr Robinson suggested the planting of two trees - of which just one remains - two new telephone kiosks and notice boards. They were planned close to the town hall 'annexe' - 17-19 High Street. The bulk of the area around the two buildings should be paved, with a high kerb next to the road.

It was agreed to go-ahead with Mr Robinson's scheme - subject to inquiries with the General Post Office for the siting of the two new phone kiosks and following consultation with the public.

Plans to replace it entirely, although much discussed by the then council, appeared to disappear, saving the hall from demolition.