Have your say on future of Lowestoft Town Hall

Lowestoft Town Hall on the High Street.Picture: James Bass

Lowestoft Town Hall on the High Street.Picture: James Bass - Credit: Eastern Daily Press © 2014

People in Lowestoft are being urged to give their views on the future of the town's historic and landmark town hall

Waveney District Council has today launched a consultation looking at possible future uses for the building once the authority moves out of it as part of the controversial £13.6m shared office project.

The consultation documents say the town hall site would be a 'valuable' asset to the High Street area as business offices, while Colin Law, leader of Waveney, has raised the idea of it being turned into homes.

Mr Law has pledged that residents will have a say on the future of the town hall, which is a grade II listed building and dates back to 1857.

However, there are fears that the town's important heritage could be affected as part of the council's drive to find a sustainable and affordable future for the building.

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Mr Law said: 'The town hall is an important, historic building and we appreciate that there are people in the town with strong views and opinions about its future.

'Therefore it is absolutely vital that we give people every opportunity to express these views and to come up with genuine, viable ideas for the site.

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'We have a clear responsibility to get this right and to manage the future of the town hall in a way that genuinely benefits the people of Waveney. This could be through the provision of business space, cultural and heritage opportunities or residential units.

'Either way, this will not simply be about the highest bidders, but about a legacy for Lowestoft and we are looking forward to speaking with imaginative and passionate people about this.'

Details of the town hall consultation have been placed on Waveney's website today and people can have their say by attending three information events early next month.

Included in the documents is a statement by the council's property consultants NPS, which suggests a number of options for the building while also stressing the importance of respecting and supporting surrounding businesses and communities.

The document refers to the need to contribute towards the continued vitality of the High Street once council staff move to the shared office block by Riverside Road by retaining footfall to the surrounding shops, services, restaurants and pubs.

It added: 'Office and commercial uses would be valuable in maintaining the number of employees in the High Street area during the day when the council moves to new premises.

'Redevelopment and conversion of part of the site and buildings will provide a variety of employment and live-work opportunities for creative industries, which will complement the heritage environment and provide workspaces for small start-up businesses.'

Lowestoft Town Hall will be losing its council staff next year as Waveney and Suffolk County Council relocate hundred of staff from offices in the town to the shared office block off Riverside Road.

Construction work on the office project started in February.

Frank Joyce, of Lowestoft Coalition Against the Cuts, had lodged an appeal with the Local Government Ombudsman over the way Waveney had handled the planning process for the shared office blocks he wants the town hall to remain as council offices.

Mr Joyce lost his challenge but still wants the council to re-consider its decision on re-locating its offices to the Riverside Road site.

He said: 'It was built as the town hall, it has served the community for more than one hundred and fifty years and it should stay as the town hall.'

Local historian Ian Robb, who lives in Gunton, 'It is a important part of the town. I would like to see it turned in a museum or a community centre.'

The two councils say moving to the new purpose-built office block will help them save up to £3m of public money over 10 years by allowing them to dispose of the buildings which are deemed unfit for purpose for staff or are inefficient.

Frank Mortimer, Waveney's cabinet member for customers and communities said: 'We want the community to be involved in any plans right from the very start. The town hall has been a place that local people have used, visited and enjoyed and they should definitely get involved in answering questions about its future.

We look forward to hearing from them.'

?The public consultation events will take place at Lowestoft Town Hall next month and will see questionnaires for people to fill in handed out. The first event is a drop-in session in which anyone can attend on Friday, July 4 from 2pm to 5pm.

Two further consultation events will appointment only. They will be held between 9am to 5pm on Saturday, July 5 and from 5pm to 9pm on Thursday, July 10.

Anyone wishing to book an appointment should contact Waveney's Active Communities Team on 01502 523354 or email activecommunities@eastsuffolk.gov.uk to make an appointment.

Anyone wanting a questionnaire can also contact the Active Communities Team to arrange one to be sent to them.

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