Council responds to Town Hall concerns
Published on 26th October 2012
Questions have been raised about Waveney District Council's plans for the future of the Town Hall and other related issues.
A petition has been lodged, by Mr Frank Joyce, opposing Waveney District Council's accommodation plans in the town. The petition makes assertions about the Riverside Road project in Lowestoft and the future of the Town Hall. Waveney District Council will host the petition on our website and, as per the terms of our constitution, this will in all probability trigger a debate at full Council.
The Council is fully committed to providing its citizens with the opportunity to be heard and to have a voice on any topic that affects its communities. However, the decision to proceed with the project has already been made and the reasons are laid out in a detailed business plan which largely addresses the concerns that Mr Joyce raises.
Taking each of his points in turn, we feel that the petitioner is incorrect in his suggestion that the Town Hall has 'no viable future other than as a town hall'. There is a preservation order on the fabric of the building which will of course be respected, however there are very many ways that the Town Hall could be utilised and transformed in future to benefit generations to come.
It is also incorrect to assert that Waveney cannot afford the cost of new office accommodation. The business case details how any borrowed outlay would be recouped through long term efficiency savings that come with occupying a new, energy-efficient building which does not require expensive repair and maintenance.
Indeed it is because the Council has to consider its resources very carefully that such a move away from the Town Hall is planned. Equally his point about Suffolk County Council contributing more to the project does not stand up, given that only a tiny fraction of their total staffing numbers across the entire county are affected.
The petitioner also suggests that the 'potential damage to the High Street is clear'. The Council would respond to this suggestion by pointing out that, as part of an accommodation strategy which is now underway, offices on the Town Hall site have already been demolished and a building project which will see 23 flats and houses built in their place has begun. These affordable properties are a vital community need and, by bringing new families in to the north end of town, this will also boost shops and businesses in the area.
Waveney District Council knows it is important to listen to local communities and to respond to any reasonable concerns that are voiced about decisions which are taken. However, given that the information above, and in the business plan, is in the public domain, it is the council's view that a clarification, in this instance, is helpful to anyone considering signing this petition.
The following sentence has been removed from an earlier version of this statement: "Mr Joyce has chosen not to engage with the Council through this process but, instead, wait until after the decisions have been taken, with full cross-party support, to suggest that the entire process be halted." Waveney District Council understands that Mr Joyce did send an email to councillors on this matter prior to the final decision being taken. We apologise for the error and we are very happy to put the record straight on this matter.
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