Major changes for Great Yarmouth’s Town Hall

It has played host to countless debates over the years, but last night it was the future of Great Yarmouth's town hall itself that came under scrutiny ahead of borough council staff moves.

The Grade II* listed building is now set to have its historic council chambers and Grand Assembly Room converted into office space after councillors backed the proposals.

However, after an intervention by English Heritage, the old magistrates' court, which is planned to be included in the works and used as the new council chamber, will require a separate debate at a later date.

At a borough council development control meeting last night those present unanimously backed the officer-recommended plan for the work.

One of those supporting the efforts was Labour councillor Mick Castle, who said: 'I think it's quite fitting that having spent money doing the place up and a lot of work in terms of making the building safe, it's nice to think it will be more intensely used so the community can get more out of the investment.'

The plans are to provide more staff accommodation and are part of a �2.2m scheme to modernise the town hall, increasing the number of staff who can work there from 79 to around 155 and bringing staff in from other buildings.

Work is expected to start around August and take a year.

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Under the scheme the alterations would see members' seating being removed from the council chamber, though the members' bench would remain, and the partition between it and the Robing Room also removed.

Meanwhile, the Assembly Room would have its stage area taken out, followed by the installation of temporary dividers, while toilets would also be moved and a lightwell used as a meeting room.

Additionally partitions would be removed elsewhere in a return to the hall's original plan.

However an officers' report on the changes stressed no other features would be removed and panelling would remain intact, and that 'alterations would be reversible if required and any partitions would be removable.'

Mr Castle added: 'I think the town hall will go back to how it was when it was first built, and that shows some integrity to the design.'