Town hall takeover talks as 1,800 pledge names

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ripley Town Hall could be taken over by Derbyshire County Council as part of moves to shift Amber Valley from its current base to the disused Somerfield store in Heanor.

Amber Valley Borough Council confirmed officers were in discussions with Derbyshire officers to take over ‘part or all of the central headquarters’ part on the Market Place but would not comment on specific plans for the Town Hall itself.

Last night Ripley town councillors delivered a petition signed by more than 1,800 people to Amber Valley’s full council meeting in a bid to take over the ownership and upkeep of the historic building. Leader of the town council Cllr Steve Freeborn said he was ‘hopeful’ about the plan – providing the town hall’s future could be secured for the people of Ripley.

He said: “It seems sensible to me. I know that the county council is looking to rationalise their property estate. It would be great for Ripley’s town centre. I don’t see any reason why we can’t come to an arrangement that suits both parties. Heanor and Alfreton both have town halls that are managed by their town councils.”

Cllr Freeborn added that the town council must set its precept in November. “We need to know whether we are getting it. It would be good to have some urgency in our discussions.”

Ripley Town Council said it was happy to take over from April next year and has hired chartered surveyors to inspect the building and advise on maintenance requirements.

It estimates the running costs will add an additional £20 to £30 to Band D properties in the town council’s precept.

An Amber Valley spokesman said: “Borough council officers are currently in discussions with county council officers about them taking on part or all of the central headquarters.

“We are therefore looking at potential re-locations, including premises in Heanor. No decision has yet been made.”

The town council took the unusual step of writing to each borough councillor seeking their support before last night’s full council meeting of Amber Valley.

Speaking before last night’s meeting, a town council spokesman said: “The town hall was built and paid for by the people of Ripley in the 1880s and its ownership was later transferred to the borough at no cost. “We think that AVBC should not assume the right to sell the town hall, and recognise a civic duty not to do so by transferring it to the town council.

“This is what the 1,500-plus petitioners to the borough – and all Ripley town councillors of all party political persuasions – are unanimously asking the borough councillors to do. “This would ensure that Ripley Town Hall is saved – as a fulcrum of civic and community life - for future generations.”