Government gives thumbs up to Hebden Bridge Town Hall plans
Monday, 14 July 2008
The vision of turning Hebden Bridge’s beautiful but neglected Council Offices buildings into a vibrant community resource for the town has received strong endorsement from the government.
The Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) announced last week that Calderdale has been selected as one of three regional local authorities to pilot the transfer of assets into community control. The Council Offices in Hebden Bridge is one of two buildings currently managed by Calderdale which will be the focus of this pilot.
“This is potentially tremendously exciting news for the town,” says Andrew Bibby, joint coordinator of the Council Offices project team with local councillor Janet Battye. “We have already established very good relationships with Calderdale and are a long way forward in discussing with the council the future of this landmark building,” Andrew adds.
Announcing the news, the DCLG praised what it called the ‘high capacity partnership’ which has been working to develop the project. The government went on to acknowledge the scope for the buildings to be ‘a significant community resource with function rooms, offices, meeting rooms,etc’.
“This is a tremendous fillip to everyone locally who has supported what we are trying to achieve. We are delighted that Calderdale has been selected as one of only a small number of local authorities for this pilot,” says Cllr Janet Battye.
Further encouragement has come from news that the government is to create a new £70m Community Builders fund. Hebden Bridge Council Offices was very unlucky not to be awarded £800,000 from an earlier government scheme, and the project team has confirmed that they will now be preparing a funding bid for the new grant scheme, expected to be launched in the autumn.
“We have ambitious but realistic proposals which will see the buildings, first built in the 1890s, made fit for the next hundred years. We hope to create the public hall and function room which the town so badly needs,” Andrew Bibby says. As well as providing new community resources and facilities for public access to local government services , the project team are also exploring the scope of providing modern office facilities for local small businesses, focusing on the creative and digital sectors.
The Council Offices project is currently being run under the auspices of the local community ‘umbrella’ organisation Hebden Bridge Partnership, with the support of the town council and the four rural parish councils. “We expect shortly to create a new charitable organisation specifically to carry this project forward. When we do, we will be inviting everyone who lives in and around the town to join in by becoming Friends of the centre,” says Cllr Battye. A public consultation event is being planned for shortly after the summer holidays.
Full details, week by week, of the progress of the project are available on the website diary, at www.hb-bridgecentre.org.uk
Andrew Bibby told the Hebden Bridge Web, “Inevitably major proposals like this take time, and we can’t promise immediate results. However, we will now get fully engaged in in-depth discussions with senior Calderdale officers, to plan the way ahead. We hope that we may have more news about the future of the building within the next two or three months.”
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