PLANS to revamp Fordingbridge Town Hall have been slammed as a “retrograde step” - sparking fears over reducing capacity as well as the future cost.

The application for the Grade II listed building, which has been submitted by Fordingbridge Town Council, was discussed during a meeting of its planning committee last week (Wednesday August 18).

The plans

The meeting heard on the first floor there would be two offices and a toilet. The proposals for the ground floor include the removal of the existing kitchen which will be relocated, the re-instatement of a currently blocked-up doorway at the back, and the installation of a lift and two toilets.

The front part of the building, Cllr Edward Hale said would be “opened up” and there would be space for the tourist information centre. At the front door there would be a glass enclosure and doors to make it “more inviting”.

The space on the ground and first floor will be reconfigured as part of the plans.


The conservation officer has raised concerns over the proposals and the impact on the existing fabric of the building, the meeting heard. There had also been two objections from neighbouring properties over the rear access.

A planning statement said the plans have been “modified in light of the advice received at the time” and “careful consideration” has been given to the comments and suggestions from the conservation officer. It added “whilst those that can be met have been, there are one or two that cannot be achieved due to inherent operational needs of the town council”.

Cllr Malcolm Adams voiced concerns over reducing the hall's capacity and felt it was a “retrograde step to make it smaller” and would make it “less viable” for hosting live shows.

He also raised concerns over the potential costs which could be "hundreds of thousands"  compared to the savings in rental costs for the current tourist information centre - fearing it could leave the town council with “yet another debt” in years to come.

Cllr Adams felt the council offices would be better located at the other end of the town or in a empty shop in the future and said he would not be supporting the proposal.

Consultation with residents

Resident Steve Bailey said he was “disappointed” the application had been submitted without consulting residents and called for a more in-depth study to be done.

He also felt the hall size should remain the same and added: “I think you’re just jumping in too quick with this. You need to have discussed this. Why don’t you engage with us?”

Cllr Hale said it had been discussed at council meetings over the past couple of years and publicised in the local press.

The meeting heard the application was submitted to see if permission would be granted for such a scheme.

Cllr Diane Paton, the chair of the planning committee, said the council would be consulting with the public on a number of matters and surveys were going out.

“There are lots of things that we are going to need to think about for the town and we need public consultation in order to do that," she added.

How councillors voted

The application was recommended for approval by the town council’s planning committee with eight votes in support and three against.

Cllr Anna Wilson said the plan needed to be “explored” for the “needs of the town for the future”.

The final decision on whether planning permission is granted will be made by New Forest District Council.

To view or comment on the application visit: (application ref 21/10980 and 21/10981).


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