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Council to hold consultation over future of historic town hall as plans move forward

PUBLISHED: 08:23 02 February 2018 | UPDATED: 08:23 02 February 2018

The empty Town Hall in Lowestoft.  Picture: James Bass

The empty Town Hall in Lowestoft. Picture: James Bass

The future of Lowestoft's historic town hall site is to be progressed in the coming months as a council prepares for a major consultation.

Inside the clock tower at Lowestoft Town Hall during the Heritage Open Days. Picture: Mick Howes.Inside the clock tower at Lowestoft Town Hall during the Heritage Open Days. Picture: Mick Howes.

The 161-year-old building previously served as the headquarters for Waveney District Council until staff vacated the site in 2015 as part of a £13m accommodation programme that led to the creation of the authority’s Riverside building on Canning Road.

Last year the Grade II listed town hall building was transferred over to the new Lowestoft Town Council – which is set to discuss bids and progress for a condition survey at a council meeting next week.

And, with plans for the building to be surveyed and stabilised, the council will be holding a public consultation over the future of the vacant town hall.

Lowestoft mayor Ian Graham said: “You will see things developing this year. Given the state of disrepair of the building initially we want to get into the town hall and stabilise the building before the winter.

Inside the old council chamber at Lowestoft Town Hall during the Heritage Open Days. Picture: Mick Howes.Inside the old council chamber at Lowestoft Town Hall during the Heritage Open Days. Picture: Mick Howes.

“Then we can go forward from there with a major public consultation seeking everyone’s views on future uses of the building as we want to encourage people back to the historic High Street.

“We want to get a market back in Lowestoft and some work will be done around the Triangle Market area.”

Last year the town council held heritage open days, which included public visits inside the clock tower and old council chamber. The success of these events led to positive public feedback – with a number of ideas mooted for future uses of the building. These included a community hall, arts venue, wedding venue and performance area.

And with the successful North Lowestoft Heritage Action Zone announcement late last year – which saw Lowestoft’s historic High Street and Scores unveiled as one of eight new HAZs as part of a five-year scheme run by Waveney District Council and Historic England – the town council is hopeful of now being in a stronger position to bid for further external funding pots.

The empty Town Hall in Lowestoft.  Picture: James BassThe empty Town Hall in Lowestoft. Picture: James Bass

Mr Graham said they have submitted a bid to the Heritage Lottery Fund for the town hall, and are seeking further grant funding to “help protect our heritage assets for future generations.”

Council’s plans

With the first stage of the project “opening it up to the public” during the successful heritage open days, the next stage will see the town hall professionally surveyed before a public consultation over the future of the building, and bidding for further funding.

Deputy mayor Peter Knight said: “The town hall site is currently in a poor state that was inherited in that condition. People we talk to want the building open - they want it to be available for public use and they want the High Street to be busy. We need to get this right as in order to renovate the town hall it is likely to be a multi-million pound project.”

Lowestoft Town Council parish clerk Shona Bendix added: “Like many residents, the council is dismayed to see the building unoccupied and boarded up. We recognise the enormity of the responsibility and we will consult with the public over the future of this building as we ensure that the town hall is put to the best and most sustainable use.”

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