IT is fantastic news for Craven District Council that its ambitious project to transform Skipton Town Hall has received backing from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

The initial £98,000 announced this week will enable the council to firm up its application for a further £1.4 million bid to the lottery, which it will need to make in the next two years.

Although there is a way to go before it gets the full amount, what it does have is the endorsement of the lottery officials, who will have received many, many other bids from similarly well-deserving causes. It is a major confidence boost for those who have a vision for the museum and art gallery, and for the whole of Skipton Town Hall.

Support from lottery could well open doors to other grant pots – there's nothing like official backing to get others coming forward.

There is no doubt the hall has been left to crumble for decades, the result of successive administrations who have failed to invest in a much-loved public building. Two years ago, it was very nearly handed over to an historical trust, but at the last moment, the council decided to take a leap into the dark and keep it 'in-house'.

Since then, much work has taken place – a new boiler has been installed, the electrics have been sorted out and the original steps at the front rebuilt, while an alternative modern entrance, with disability access, and new toilets have been built at the side.

Although the council has yet to secure any tenants, it is in advanced talks, and is close to agreeing terms with Skipton Town Council, which has long wanted to relocate from its cramped current premises above Barclays Bank in the High Street.

Now, a deservedly pleased with itself Craven Council can forge ahead and make the museum and art gallery the visitor experience it hopes for.