Saffron Walden Town Hall Task Force meet for the first time


The first meeting of this group took place recently. Those present were Malcolm White (interim town clerk), Terry Frostick, and Cllrs Sharon Morris, Paul Gadd, Mike Hibbs, Richard Freeman. Sharon Morris was elected the chairperson.

The meeting focussed on:

  • Optimising the use of Town Hall space
  • Relocating the Town Council offices into the Town Hall
  • Identifying ways to maximise the safe numbers which can be accommodated for functions

These issues have been visited many times before during various administrations, with varying degrees of success. The challenge is that the Town Hall is a Victorian building constructed for a town of 3,000 inhabitants. It now serves a town five times that size – more if one takes account of the surrounding villages. Many of the rooms are small, with a multitude of different floor levels. In addition, fire and other safety issues become ever more stringent. They have to be observed, but the outcome usually reduces the numbers which are allowed at events.

Another challenge is that whatever one does to an historic building is expensive. And, to be successful, the funds have to be raised and the work completed within the term of one administration. In reality, this gives one rather less than four years in which to choose options, raise the funds, identify and engage the builders and get the work under way (and, ideally, completed).

Over the years, various plans have been produced. Some of the most useful are by well-known local architects, which the group intends to use as a basis for their latest designs. In addition, we shall commission a plan which enables the top floor to be used for offices. This will involve replacing the present lift, which is slow and well past its economic working life. The new lift will service three floors – the top floor as well as the ground and first floors. This will give much greater flexibility in the use of the building. It should also be faster and much more reliable.

We shall also re-visit the options for making the main entrance much more energy-efficient. At present, it is a major source of heat loss in winter, when the doors are left open for functions.

Our plans will include replacing the boilers with the latest high-efficiency units. The existing boilers are also at the end of their working life, and replacement is overdue.

These are intention, of course, and have to be resourced and then implemented. However, it is a good start, and we intend to maintain the impetus.

Richard Freeman (R4U Councillor for District and Town Councils, Castle Ward)
Sharon Morris (R4U Councillor for District and Town Councils, Audley Ward)