“PRIORITY” works are due to start on the town hall in Fordingbridge.

Fordingbridge Town Council services will have to be moved for three months to allow for the work to take place.

The total cost, which includes the contractor and professional fees, is likely to be in the region of £190,000 and work is expected to start next week.

During the council’s annual town assembly last Wednesday (April 17), which was held in the town hall, deputy mayor Edward Hale spoke about the repairs and said a contract had been awarded to carry out the work.

He said: “Everyone will be moving out for at least three months. Staff will move to the information centre and the council will hold meetings at Victoria Rooms.”

“The council has previously agreed to make more use of the town hall and hope to find a way to base all council services in one location in the future,” added Cllr Hale.

“I’m looking forward to getting on with the building work at last and also to new opportunities for using the restored opportunities in the future.

“We are one of only a few town councils to have an historic building like this as our base.”

The precept was raised by 16.3 per cent for 2019/20 to £101.21 per annum for Band D properties - an increase of £14.09 from the previous year.

The rise was agreed by councillors to fund the increased hours for the town clerk, a buildings manager to oversee buildings repairs and improvements, and to fund the building work to the town hall.

Town clerk Paul Goddard said the work on the town hall was a “priority” for the council and would “begin shortly”.

It is being funded through Community Infrastructure (CIL) Funds, a public works loan and reserves.

The refurbishment will involve removing and reinstating the clock faces and mechanism on the clock tower as well as relaying the roof and replacing tiles and leadwork.

Work will also need to be carried out to strengthen the structure of the Grade II listed building along with repairs to sash windows.

The meeting was also told the council aims to continue improving facilities at the Recreation Ground, focusing on refurbishing the changing rooms.

The town council will be carrying out a review of open spaces with New Forest District Council, and improve play areas following a consultation.