Town hall sell off to be debated today

COUNCILLORS are set to agree a radical proposal which will see Scarborough Borough Council (SBC) de-camp from the town hall and sell it off.

The issue is being put to a meeting of the full council after Cabinet had mixed views on Tuesday.

A review of council accommodation last year led to three options being put forward which included staying put and partial relocation.

The preferred one is a complete re-location to a more modern building after it was revealed bringing the town hall on St Nicholas Street up to modern standards would cost over £5 million over 25 years - with £2.6 million worth of works being needed in the next two years.

If plans are approved the new building would be acquired by December and the town hall, valued at £2 million, vacated by September next year.

The Homes and Communities Agency (HCA) is ploughing in £3 million, the new site will cost £4.7 million with SBC having to borrow the extra £1.7 million.

There is the possibility of a third party also joining SBC at the new site but nothing has been finalised.

If SBC were to go-ahead with the deal it would have to agree by the end of the month but would have until the end of December to pull out.

Coun Colin Challen said the council is being rushed into a “momentous decision” and people from the Whitby and Filey boroughs should be consulted.

He told the meeting: “We should invite the HCA to a meeting so they can explain why it is they are holding a shotgun to our heads and why we have got ten days to make a decision.

“It is in effect a loan they are offering us and people should not see this as a grant, they will want to get their money back eventually. There are huge risks associated with this move.”

Whitby member, Coun Jane Kenyon backed the plans saying the money that would be used on maintaining the town hall could be better spent on other services.

She said: “You don’t need to do a straw poll whether people think this is a good idea or bad.

“I don’t think you would get three per cent caring a jot about this building and there would not be much difference in Filey.

“The issue for me is very clear - the money we need to spend over the next 25 years to make this building fit for purpose.

“The days of buildings like this are going and we can stand still and get demolished by the future. We have to move forward into an enlightened age and provide services for our residents.”

Nick Edwards, SBC head of finance, said: “If, subject to agreement by the council, legal agreements can be signed before 31 March, this means monies will be released to the council to establish the joint venture. If it is not then that £3 million is lost to the borough.

“We have explored options for other accommodation, we have looked at the cost of buying a brand new facility.

“We have looked at the possibility of remaining and that would cost in the region of £650,000 to £700,000 per year - it is, in our financial position, just not affordable.”