The debate on Facebook about plans to repair, refurbish and restore the Town Hall has led to misapprehension and concern. The Town Council therefore would like to clear up any confusion, and explain what has happened so far, and where we go next with the project.
The Town Hall Project was conceived in order to make the building community-based, accessible to all, and welcoming for the next 100 years. The project would also address the appalling heating system and lack of insulation, the extensive rising damp and unhealthy working conditions and the very limited lettable space. The building has remained largely unchanged for the last 90 years.
This difficult and complex project has at times been considered in two distinct parts. The 1930s extension to the rear and the listed Georgian building stretching from High Street as far as the current Town Council reception area. This may be where the confusion has arisen. The intention was always to update the whole building, not to build a new extension.
The project has evolved in the past couple of years under the guidance of our architects and steered by the resident-led focus group.
- In 2018 the original extension under consideration was a 3-storey building with a larger footprint than the existing Town Hall – this was rejected in favour of re-ordering as it carried a cost up to £1.5 million for the unlisted section alone, compared with the current costings for the whole building which come in at £1.75 million.
- Demolition and reconstruction of the rear 1930s extension, which constitutes a small proportion of the overall footprint was rejected in favour of re-ordering that area. Costs associated with this area of the building would have been £900,000 to demolish and reconstruct rather than the £335,000 quoted to just re-order this small section. Demolition and reconstruction of the Georgian Listed part of the Town Hall would never, of course, be considered.
- At every stage, the costs have been scrutinised by our councillors.
- Extensions - The footprint of the building will remain largely the same. The lift will be built on the western elevation of the building to provide step free access to the first floor. The other increase in footprint relates to the squaring-off of the current building to remove the rather quirky and unusable space created by the angled wall and to facilitate disabled friendly access, both to the lift and to the rear confidential interview areas.
In addition to the far more visually-appealing and welcoming interior, the removal of inaccessible levels and creation of many additional community and lettable spaces will provide significant income for the council long into the future and facilitate activities such as conferencing, events, weddings, community groups, charitable events, and more. These are either limited or prevented in the current layout. Hot-desking and communal business areas will also be available and the multi-use areas will convert easily into exhibition space for locals.
We held a well-attended exhibition over 2 days in February 2020, which was manned by members of the resident-led focus group, councillors and members of staff who were on hand to answer queries such as those which have recently arisen. Details of the exhibition and plans are available at https://www.tenterdentowncouncil.gov.uk/en/page/tenterden-regeneration-project and the event produced an approval rating of 74% for the Town Hall changes both from those who attended and respondents after the event.
The council has never been in a better position financially to undertake this ambitious project. We do, of course, need public support to go ahead with a loan application for £750,000 and we will publish the consultation shortly giving full reasons why we feel this should be supported. Legal restrictions prevent a Town Council from spending funds on various suggested alternatives. A comprehensive list will be provided with the public consultation documentation.
The consultation will be in a straight Yes/No format and the council will, of course, abide by the result.
The submitted plans are available to view on ABC’s planning portal: https://planning.ashford.gov.uk/Planning/details.aspx?systemkey=117332&pageindex=0