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Town Hall group seeks 'Friends'

Wednesday, 8 April 2009

The eleven minute film below, produced by Nick Wilding, tells the story of how The Town Hall Project is trying to ensure a long-term sustainable future for our fine Town Hall building, by arranging for it to be transferred into community management.

Update: Friday, 3 April 2009

Town Hall project

photo: Mike Barrett

Supporters of the Town Hall project queued up
to donate their £10 and received a certificate and mug.

Mayor Susan Press thanked the Town Hall Project group for "spearheading this innitiative". The first step, she explained, was to get 1000 friends to join up and pledged supported from Hebden Royd Council. Cllr Janet Battye told the packed room that she was pleased to see so much support, especially from town councillors. Andrew Bibby (see photo below) explained that the building is in serious need of some "tender loving care" but hopes that it can once again become the focal point for the local community. The group is in negotiations with Calderdale Council and is hoping a transfer can be arranged in the coming months.

Town Hall Project

photo: Mike Barrett

Appeal for local community support launched today

Thursday, 2 April 2009

Town HallA major step forward in the campaign to protect and develop Hebden Bridge’s landmark Town Hall Is being taken with the launch today (Thurs April 2nd) of an ambitious appeal to the local community to show its support.

The target for the new scheme, the Friends of Hebden Bridge Town Hall, has been set extremely high, with the organisers aiming to sign up a total of one thousand local people over the next few weeks.   A number of local shops are voluntarily offering to participate as enrolment points, and posters, leaflets and banners will be widely distributed over the next few days.  All Friends of the Town Hall will receive a commemorative “I’m a Friend” porcelain mug, as a small thank you for their support.

The launch of the Friends of the Town Hall comes a few days before a key decision will be taken by Calderdale’s Cabinet, which will potentially open the door to the Town Hall subsequently being transferred from the council into community control and ownership.  The Cabinet is expected to agree a new strategy for ‘asset transfer’, which will establish the basis on which key public buildings in the borough could be transferred into new community-run trusts.   Hebden Bridge Town Hall is likely to be one of the main candidates for such a transfer.

“With Calderdale’s key decision now only days away, this is absolutely the right time to demonstrate the strength of feeling in the town for our Town Hall, as the focal point of community life.  We have to ensure that the building which has been here for over 110 years is saved for the twenty-first century.  We also have to make sure that ideas, energy and money are invested into making this a really valuable resource for all,” says Andrew Bibby, one of the voluntary project team which has been negotiating with Calderdale for the past two years.  He adds that the much-regretted loss of Hebden Bridge’s Pitt Street baths and adult education centre a few years ago is a sharp reminder of how important our remaining public buildings are for the town’s life.

Janet Battye, another member of the project team,  adds:  “We know from the detailed consultation work we’ve been doing that there’s a strong groundswell of support for developing the Town Hall as a proper community facility.  Our proposal to convert empty offices into a new public hall and function room is especially popular with many local groups.  What we’ve got to do now is to get the whole town behind the Friends scheme.”

The concept of asset transfer into community control has been encouraged by the government, following a key report on the subject published in 2007.  Hebden Bridge Town Hall was identified as a potential target for community control in a government press release last summer, which talked of the potential for a “significant community resource with function rooms, offices, and meeting rooms”.  Detailed discussions and negotiations with Calderdale have been led by Hebden Bridge Partnership, the umbrella voluntary sector organisation, acting with the support of the Town and four rural parish councils.  The proposal is for the asset transfer to be to the newly registered charity, Hebden Bridge Community Association, which was established last year specifically for this purpose.  All Friends of the Town Hall over eighteen will automatically become members of this Association, and will be able to play their part collectively in electing the management committee each year which will carry forward the project.

According to Andrew Bibby, the ambitious scope of the Friends of the Town Hall initiative makes this something unique to Hebden Bridge.  “Public buildings have already been passed into community ownership in other towns in Britain, but we know of nowhere else that has tried to do what we’re doing.  Some people have said that our ‘one thousand Friends’ target is very optimistic, but we believe that with everyone’s help we can do it.  And it must be right for such a key building in the town to be controlled by an organisation that’s demonstrably accountable to all,” he says.

“We also hope that the commemorative mug which all Friends will receive will be appreciated.  We’d like to think that this will become a must-have item for every Hebden Bridge kitchen!,” he adds.

All who wish to enrol as Friends of the Town Hall will be able to do so at the launch tonight, being held at 6pm in the Town Hall itself, or over the next few weeks.  Bright posters will be displayed in all the shops which are participating  in the scheme.  Membership costs £10 (waged) and £5 (unwaged), with a special rate of £2.50 for all children and young people under 18.  A gold membership rate of £100 is also available for those who are able to particularly support the project.  As a registered charity, Hebden Bridge Community Association will be able automatically to reclaim extra income tax on Friends’ membership donations through the Gift Aid scheme.

More details about the Friends scheme are on the membership leaflet which is now being distributed, and also on the project website.  On-line enrolment will be possible shortly as well.  For further information contact Andrew Bibby on 01422 844026.

Hebden Bridge Town Hall project

Hebden Bridge Town Hall project: Transfer of Town Hall to community ownership one step closer (March 2009)

Hebweb News: New Charity created to manage Town Hall (Jan 2009)

Hebweb News: Government gives thumbs up to Hebden Bridge Town Hall plans (July 2008)

Hebweb News: Plans to putTown Hall once again at the heart of local life (October 2007)