IT was enough to make any Dabber go weak at
the knees. "Civic Hall to close?" the headline asked on the front page
of the February 2 edition of the Nantwich Chronicle.
There was no article on the
front page, but a panel stated: "Some of Nantwich's crown jewels,
including the Civic Hall, could be shut or sold off next year as
Government cutbacks take their toll, town leaders have warned."
Well used to buildings
disappearing from the local scene with the idea of yet more homes
appearing in town, the local people could only wonder what would take
the place of this 60-year-old building - assuming it would not be gutted
and become the new of home of . . . whatever.
But the article on Page 7
of the local newspaper proved to be a little less of a worry. There was a way out of the
situation. It was all connected with the new (2009) Cheshire East
Council who - faced with Government-imposed cuts aimed at solving the
economic crisis - were looking for buildings they could off load, or
hand over control of.
Since Nantwich Town
Council has gone on record as wishing to run
Nantwich buildings things could be a lot better than the headline might
The Market Hall is another building that
Cheshire East Council would like to hand over control of. With this,
there wouldn't be a big renovation bill as there was a £430,000 refurbishment in 2007, according to
another article in the Chronicle.
Perhaps more worrying is the
fact that Cheshire East Council has The Gables "community facility" in
Beam Street, public toilets, children's play areas and open spaces in
mind as ways of saving money.
With the best will in the
world, the Town Council cannot run the buildings without money. This led
Councillor John Lewis (Conservative group leader) to ask "Do the town's residents
want to maintain these facilities?" Quote in the newspaper, he went on
to ask: "And if they do want them, and they cost money to run, are
people willing to pay for them?"
Councillor Steve Hope, group
leader of the Nantwich First councillors on the Town Council, is quoted
as saying: "Unless Cheshire East Council changes its policies,
facilities . . . are likely to be sold off or closed in April 2012."
Of course, if the Town Council
takes over the facilities the local rate precept - the part of the rates that goes
to meet specifically Nantwich items - will need to be raised. Presumably
there will be a
matching cut in the part of the rates
imposed by Cheshire East Council.
The facilities will still need
paying for and, hopefully, for the same amount on the rates, but it will
be the Town Council rather than Cheshire East Council who will be seen
as the "villain" of the situation.
On the other hand, apart from the
many events held at the Civic Hall throughout the year, the building is
the home of the Nantwich Tourist Information Centre (a Cheshire East
Council venture) and it is the council's local office where Nantwich
people can pay their rates and deal with council employees face-to-face.
Presumably Cheshire East Council will be paying rent to the Town
WHEN Nantwich became part of the Crewe and
Nantwich Borough Council - predecessor to Cheshire East Council - the
Civic Hall was the venue for many events that might be considered to be the
Crewe local authority's responsibility.
But clearly the hall was the biggest venue in
the borough and the then new authority might consider itself lucky that
Nantwich had had the foresight to build a sizeable venue more than half
a century before.