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Wednesday, 22 October 2014

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‘No guarantees’ offered on future of historic Ulverston town hall

COUNCIL bosses discussing the future of two historic landmarks have said there is no “cast iron guarantee” on the future of either building.

The Coronation Hall in Ulverston was packed yesterday for a public meeting of South Lakeland District Council’s cabinet. Among the items on the agenda were proposals to sell Ulverston Town Hall to housing developers and move local council services to the Coro.

More than a dozen representatives of businesses, charities and cultural groups registered to have their say on the proposals.

SLDC had previously stated it can no longer afford to run both buildings and that savings and profits from the sale of the town hall would be put towards keeping the Coronation Hall open.

But many residents raised concerns that the venue could be relegated to being a “village hall” and called on cabinet members to make a long term commitment to the Coro as a cultural venue.

Ulverston Town Council leader Phil Lister said members would need to be reassured on the Coro’s future before agreeing to leave the town hall, which he described as a “democratic hub”.

He said: “We have to know that the sacrifice is for the greater good and that a question mark is never going to be placed over the future of the Coronation Hall ever again.”

In response, councillor Jonathan Brook, SLDC portfolio holder for strategic growth, said: “In a sense, there can be no cast iron guarantees for the future. We do our best with what we can see but there will always be an element of risk when changes are made.

“Coming up with cast iron guarantees is difficult.”

In a separate development, the recently formed Ulverston Community Enterprises is negotiating with SLDC to take over and run the Coronation Hall, together with the town’s car parks and markets on a not-for-profit basis.

Cumbria County councillor James Airey argued that a community owned Coro, run with the help of the Friends of the Coronation Hall, could be economically viable and allow Ulverston to keep its town hall.

He said: “I think we should be fighting to retain both buildings and I don’t think it’s too much to ask for a town like ours.

“We are a growing town and we’ve got an excellent town council.

“I would urge the town council not to give up their lease on the town hall because it is a very strong bargaining tool. Do not give it up until the Coronation Hall is safeguarded in perpetuity.”

The cabinet voted unanimously in favour of the proposals to list the town hall as “surplus to requirements” and will now enter negotiations with Ulverston Town Council over the relocation.

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