THE long wait to settle Ashburton Town Hall's future may soon be over. Three years after Teignbridge Council indicated that it wanted to dispose of the Grade II listed building, it has invited the town council to engage in 'full and frank discussions'. Teignbridge Council emailed a letter on Monday encouraging town councillors to talk figures. Negotiations have been mired by government guidelines requiring the district council to obtain 'best value' ie, as close to market value as possible. But in April the rules were relaxed, allowing the council to dispose of the building for 'less than best consideration', ie, whatever it can get. This is good news for Ashburton. A structural survey has revealed a number of defects which need putting right. In addition, a recent town questionnaire showed that residents were less keen on their town council taking over the building if it meant raising the precept. One option is to let off part or all of the ground floor to commercial tenants and Teignbridge Council has obtained planning permission to allow this to happen. 'We're not looking to saddle the town with a huge liability. We want to find a figure that is sensible and gives them the possibility of raising money through other uses,' said Peter Stabb, district director of resources. Teignbridge executive committee agreed last month to dispose of the building for 'less than best consideration', with a recommendation on price coming forward no later than August. But Ashburton Town Council was clearly irritated by press coverage announcing the decision by district council leader, Cllr Alan Connett. At Tuesday's town council meeting, finance chairman Cllr Jonathan Richards reiterated that the building would have to be financially self-supporting and in good condition before the council was prepared to take it on. 'We are still stuck in limbo. There's not really anything happening,' said town clerk John Germon.
End soon to town hall saga
Thursday 15th June 2006 10:00 pm