COUNCILLORS hope to push ahead with plans to revamp the town hall in Fordingbridge despite initial concerns raised by a conservation officer.

Fordingbridge Town Council is looking to reconfigure the town hall building to accommodate council and tourist information centre staff. Currently, the tourist information staff are based in Kings Yard.

The council is in the process of seeking pre-application advice from New Forest District Council.

A meeting of the town council last week was told a conservation officer had raised concerns over the heritage report provided, which needed further detail.

The officer was concerned over the “cumulative effect” of the proposed work and the change to the character of the building. They suggested extending out the rear of the building as an alternative.

But the town council has been told concerns raised by the officer could be challenged.

Mayor Edward Hale said: “All we are seeking to do is make better use of the building.”

“It sounds like we can continue moving forward and hope that we can challenge some of it,” he added.

Work being proposed includes glass doors, the removal of the kitchen and toilets, and the reinstatement of the door at the back of the hall.

Councillor Malcolm Adams was concerned about reducing the size of the hall. He said: “We have got more and more people coming in. It does seem ridiculous to make it so small. It won’t be viable for live shows or meals - it will kill it to a large extent if the floor area is reduced.”

But Councillor Hale said the only way to make “more efficient use” of the front of the building was to extend into the hall and said the council had agreed to explore those options but more information was needed.

Councillor Paul Anstey said the building needed to be “more practical” for staff. And deputy mayor, Councillor Anna Wilson, said the addition of a lift would give an option for the town hall to be used as a registry office.

No formal planning application has been submitted yet.


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