National heritage group urges town hall rethink

A NATIONAL heritage group has urged the borough council to rethink putting Ripley Town Hall up for sale.

The Victorian Society, a national charity that campaigns to preserve important Victorian and Edwardian buildings, has called Amber Valley’s sale of the town hall akin to ‘selling the family silver’.

The authority has put the 130-year-old building on the market as part of a list more than 70 cost-cutting proposals aimed to meet a £2m savings target over the next two years.

It could be sold alongside the adjoining offices of Amber Valley Borough Council.

Conservation adviser for the London-based Victorian Society, Chris Costelloe said: “The Town Hall was designed as a symbol of civic pride and its significance is tied up with the fact that the people of Ripley owned it and had access to it.

“Its future is best served by remaining in public hands.”

The 1880 town hall was designed by George Eyre, of Codnor. Now the Victorian Society has said it would like to see the borough council retain the Town Hall, or offer it to Ripley Town Council, rather than see it converted into apartments or shops.

Leader of Ripley Town Council Cllr Steve Freeborn believes Amber Valley is ‘overstating’ its financial troubles after it saw its grant from central government reduced by ten per cent earlier this year.

He said: “I’m very pleased the Victorian Society has taken the view it has, as it supports the town council’s view that the Town Hall must stay in public ownership.

“With this news, and the news that the ‘Save the Town Hall’ petitions are in many shops and are being signed by many people, I think the pressure is growing on AVBC to change its mind. But people are going to have to keep up the pressure.”

The Victorian Society’s appeal has put further pressure on the council to rethink its decision.

Leader of Amber Valley Borough Council Cllr Stuart Bradford said: “As part of the terms of any sale or other agreement, we are committed to making sure that the facade of the building is retained in the future.

No decision has yet been made to sell the Town Hall and any possible sale relates to the adjoining council headquarters and or the Town Hall.”

Cllr Bradford said that the use of the town hall offices has reduced and there is a duty to use public money effectively to improve services.