A bid to safeguard Penrith Town Hall as an asset of community value is set to be discussed at a meeting of Eden Council’s executive tomorrow.
Penrith Town Council has made the application, but Eden District Council officers are recommending that the town hall should not be accepted as an asset of community value.
A report which is set to go before the executive states that for land to be of “community value” its principal use must, in the council’s opinion, “further the social wellbeing on social interests of the local community” and “it must be realistic to think” that such a use “can continue” in the future.
Penrith Town Council has set out the reasons it believes that the nominated land should be viewed as being of community value in a supporting statement which says the town hall has a “rich cultural history”.
It received Grade II listed status in 2014, has links to the Wordsworth family, and was used as the centre of civic activity during wartime, the town council said.
A section of the town hall served as a public library until 1992 and the town museum also had its home there for several years.
These services, it is argued by the town council, contributed to the social economic and educational wellbeing of the community.
In recent years the town hall has primarily functioned as Eden District Council’s main offices and administrative centre, yet supplementary uses have included wedding ceremonies which have allowed the building to be used by the local community.
This demonstrates a potential the building has in the current area and how future uses could lend themselves to cultural and artistic use and use by community groups, says the town council.
In November, the council advertised a tender feasibility study for the redevelopment of Penrith Town Hall which included scope to liaise with a range of arts and cultural sector users to ascertain an interest in a repurposed town hall. This demonstrates that the building has potential to facilitate community, artistic and cultural uses in the future, say the town council.
The report to the executive states: “It is acknowledged that the town hall building once accommodated a museum and that a section of the building was once a public library although the remainder of the building was still used as office space.
“The library moved to alternative premises in 1992, there is no longer a museum in the town hall and the whole building is now utilised as office space, associated storage or meeting rooms.
“It is further acknowledged that weddings were once held in the town hall. This use was associated with the registrar’s service which also used to be housed in the town hall but moved to Penrith library in 2015.
“There have been no weddings in the building since and there does not appear to be any intention for weddings to revert back to the town hall.
“Consideration has also been given to the fact that the public would have some access to the building in usual circumstances.
“However, it is not accepted that this enhances the community value as its main use and function remains administrative.
“While it is accepted that the public still have access to certain areas when permitted for services delivery and to attend public meetings, the majority of the building is office space to the exclusion of the public.
“There is a possibility that the nominated land could be used to further the social interests of the local community in the future, but this is not the principal use of the land at present, nor has it been its principal use in the recent past.
“It appears the principal use of the town hall has been administrative for at least four decades which is a substantial amount of time.”
It is recommended that the nomination is not accepted on this basis.