THEY MAY THINK IT’S ALL OVER – BUT IT ISN’T YET!
The news that the Old Town Hall’s been bought by an apparently sympathetic purchaser, after years of serious neglect, is very welcome, say the Friends of the Old Town Hall. And they are very keen to meet him for a discussion on his plans for the heritage building. ‘We invite the new owner to meet us at our next Open Meeting on 28th March’, says Brian Holmshaw, joint honorary secretary of the Friends. ‘He’ll find a friendly audience’, Brian adds, ‘of people enthused by the few comments that have been made in public about the owner’s plans for the building. The previous owners, London company G1, never bothered even to reply when we asked them to meet, but we’re a community group that’s always been ready to talk to anyone aiming to restore this wonderful building with proper respect for its architectural and historic significance’.
But, Brian adds, ‘we don’t want Sheffielders to think the problem’s sorted. There’s a very long way to go’. For a start, the deterioration goes on. Some work has been done in the past month to clear rubbish from the building and to start to repair the roof, but it’s far from finished, the repairs seem to be temporary and rain is still getting in.
Then there’s the sheer scale of the restoration task. There’s 20 years of neglect waiting to be sorted out. The Friends, Brian says, ‘know probably better than anyone in the city what the task looks like, and, crucially, what it’s going to cost’. This is because they raised grants for extensive professional work on the building’s condition, what could be done with it and what work is needed. And that’s apart from getting planning consent. ‘We’re still the Friends of the Old Town Hall’, says Brian, ‘and we’ll be monitoring developments, ready to speak out if need be’.
So the Friends’ petition, launched shortly before news of the sale came through, will go on. ‘It’s a petition to the City Council’, says joint honorary secretary Joy Bullivant, ‘and it’s still relevant. We know big projects like this one don’t always work out. We wish the new owner well, and we hope he’ll come and talk to us. But if it does run into the sand, the Friends will still be here, ready to move on with the plans we’ve worked out for regeneration, able to demonstrate great public support but relying ultimately on the City Council to help them move forward’.