Ask your councillor - Issue 3

1. Do you think that basic maintenance of the Town Hall and Victoria Hall has been adequate since they fell out of public use?
2. Why was the upstairs of the Victoria Hall  closed to the public and was it necessary?
3. It has recently been brought to HPBC's attention that bats have been systematically ignored in planning decisions in Glossopdale. Do you think the council should make efforts to find out why this happened?

 Answers from
High Peak Borough Council

Councillor Anthony McKeown
Party : Labour
Ward : Gamesley
1. At the time the buildings were closed, the intention by the 'administration' at the time, was that the buildings would be basically maintained until such time as a clear future had been worked out, and whilst I believe that the administration's in between have kept to that, empty buildings will get worse over time, which is why the open halls process was started by the current administration to get a future for the halls sorted before they deteriorate any further
2. From what I can recall the rationale at the time of the closure, was partly around a lack of use, but mainly around problems with access for disabled people and the high cost of installing a lift to rectify that access problem, along with an intention that resources could be concentrated on keeping (if memory serves) the Town Hall open for public use.
3.  I understand from the information from yourself (Glossop Bat Group), that for a number of Glossop developments either the advice received or the way it was enacted was not up to scratch and that processes needs to be refined to stop that from happening again.

Councillor John Haken
Party : Conservative
Ward : Simmondley
1. No
2. The Council at that time closed both halls due to the cost of repairs. I was not a councilor at the time but in hindsight the Council should of looked at some form of public ownership.
3. No


Councillor Victoria Mann
Party : Labour
Ward : Hadfield North
1, Once buildings are no longer used on a regular basis, they can very quickly fall into disrepair. As is a matter of public record, Cllr Bob Mckeown and I voted against the closure of the halls in Glossopdale, as we felt it was detrimental to Glossop to lose access to these buildings. The town hall and Victoria Hall are now in the position of needing remedial work.  In the case of Hadfield Hall, however, a community group (Friends of Hadfield Hall) was formed by volunteers and Councillors, which was able to work with the council to reopen the hall. Consequently, the hall has been re-opened and is being used by a variety of community groups. It is a real success story, with Hadfield now having a heritage trail, a Christmas tree at the library and community events, such as art exhibitions and a  lantern parade this Christmas. This is an example of residents and Councillors coming together create an accessible community space and provide community events. For more information, here is the website, http://www.hadfieldhall.btck.co.uk/Campaign
2, The main issue with Victoria Hall is access. In order to ensure it meets with current legislation, it would need a number of renovations, including a lift. This is, sadly, unlikely to be affordable in the current climate.
3, Here in the High Peak, we have a diversity of species of flora and fauna and it is our duty as a council to do all we can to protect our environment.  In terms of bats the council  are now working with the Glossop Bat Group with regard to this issue, with a clear remit to improve performance in this area.

Councillor Godfrey Claff
Party : Labour
Ward : Howard Town
1. Both the Town Hall and Victoria Hall have now been closed for some time and I am reliant on others to let me know why this was. I am told that the halls were being seriously under-used. The decision to close them was taken by the previous administration. But I would not wish to make this a political point as I am aware that even in the early 1990s the under-use of the buildings and the condition of them was a matter of serious discussion in the Council as was the question of what to do with them. These are difficult and very expensive issues to resolve. The Council has inherited assets which, for many years, have seriously outstripped their resources to maintain. The under-use of the buildings has only added to the problems. As you will know, buildings that are not used quickly fall into disrepair. This was not only the cause of the many of the problems, but since they are now completly unused continues to blight the buildings. That is why this administration, within its first few weeks after being in office, started the action that resulted in the consultation over the summer and which has now led to ongong discussions with potential partners to find a way of using them and maintaining them properly.
 2. The upstairs of Victoria Hall was closed because it did not have access for disabled people - in particular a lift - and therefore did not meet the requirements of the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA). It was therefore operating illegally to keep it open. I understand that a rough estimate of the cost of making it DDA compliant - that is installing a lift  - would be in excess of £400,000. Given the sparing use of the upstairs floor, and the huge cost involved, I understand that the previous administration did not consider that this was either value for money, nor affordable given the Council's resources.
 3. As a result of the enquiries of the Glossop Bat Group it is now clear that in a number of cases of development projects, the Council's precautions to protect bats was inadequate. It is also clear that the Council needs to evaluate the performance of the professional help that it has contracted to advise it on these matters. However, the Council has taken up the offer of the Glossop Bat Group to work with it and to my knowledge, at least one meeting has been held with a representative of the Group, just two weeks ago, following a Council investigation into the Glossop Bat Group's allegations. This is something the Council clearly needs to get right.


Councillor Pat Jenner
Party : Labour
Ward : Tintwistle
NO ANSWERS

Councillor Graham Oakley
Party : Labour
Ward : Whitfield
1. I don't think any High Peak administration over the last few years could honestly say that they have dealt with the halls adequately. It has been a very difficult problem requiring large funds in times of financial restraint. More should have been done but I'm pleased that a process is in place that will eventually lead to  resolution of the problems and a positive future for our halls.
2. I believe the hall fell foul of government legislation requiring disabled access. A very costly lift would have had to have been installed. Its a great shame because the room is lovely. For many years I played for a badminton club using the hall. Not the best venue for this as the superb wooden floor was far more suitable for ballroom dancing and so was rather slippery. The mat we played on is still stored beneath the stage. It was perfect for shows and concerts.
3. I'm on Development Control Committee [planning] and I can confirm that bat surveys are a very frequent part of the evidence presented to us on many development proposals across the Borough. This hasn't always been the case, but I think there is a heightened awareness now among developers, council officers, councillors and the general public that bat communities must be protected.

Councillor Chris Webster
Party : Independent
Ward : Old Glossop
1. The first one relating to the Town Hall is very complicated. Minimum maintenance has been carried out by DCC who are under contract to HPBC to maintain the building. The problem is that the roof is very old and actually requires some extensive repairs. The patchwork that is currently in operation is difficult to predict because as soon as one temporary repair is completed, another appears. The Council have recently agreed that the roof will be totally repaired, and are actively seeking funding for this work. They are also engaging with Glossop Development Trust to investigate whether or not there is sufficient interest for the group to move forward with a possible asset transfer of the building. Money is currently the stumbling block for any major repairs, although it is worth noting that when the Victoria Hall was closed down, Cllr Tony Ashton told the Corporate Select Committee that the £298,000 saving on future running costs for the Hall would be redirected to Glossop Town Hall. Did this happen…….I don't think so.
2. Why did Victoria Hall close down.? Well again, the Council had neglected the day to day running of the Hall for many years. There was some maintenance issues and the Hall was not DDA compliant. This was the excuse the Council used for closing the upstairs down. (Access, toilets and catering facilities were cited). GODS were housed in the hall but the income they generated was not enough to maintain the Hall and to be honest, the Council didn't do a very good job marketing it. Hadfield Hall was also mothballed at the same time. Interestingly, the leaking roof at the Victoria Hall has been fixed by clearing the gutters. Now who would have thought of that !! Tony Ashton was Leader of the Council when the decision was taken to close the Hall. Caitlin Bisknell was Chair of Corporate Select who made the recommendation. Spooky or what.
3. I don't think that the issue surrounding bats has been deliberately ignored by HPBC Planning Officers, but I do agree that there has not been sufficient information contained in reports to Members. This could be because of ignorance but also by the very presence of your group making more people aware of the issues. I have lived on Sheffield Road/Queens Drive for over 55 years and until recently, had no idea that bats roosted in Shirehill and that they use the hedgerows on Pyegrove to navigate to Manor Park. I'm please to hear that HPBC Planning Officers are now more engaging with your group. I am also pleased that our Estates Managers are openly encouraging your group to inspect our buildings for the presence of bats.

Councillor Julie Ann McCabe
Party : Conservative
Ward : Simmondley
NO ANSWERS

Councillor Robert McKeown
Party : Labour
Ward : Hadfield South
 1. The biggest problem with both of these buildings is that they have now been empty for some time, and whilst the council has carried out basic maintenance, empty buildings won't stay in top condition without a lot of money been spent on them. To make sure we can bring them completely back to scratch we need to do like has been done with Hadfield Hall and get the community back in and back using these buildings.
2. The review at the time put a case to close the upstairs of Victoria Hall due to the problems with disabled access and the cost of putting that right along with the information at the time of a lack of use, and potential future plans.
3. As a member of the development control committee, we rely on the information from officers on these types of issues to make our decisions. Information which from the details presented by the Glossop Bat Group hasn't been applied / presented fully in all cases, but which I hope will now be corrected in the future.

Councillor Colin Peter Waude
Party : Labour
Ward : Howard Town
1. Whilst the Town Hall has not been in public use, funding from the budget has been used for spot repairs, but no overall regenerative program. In a period of austerity, and with the council facing further reductions in income in the form of Council Tax freezes, it is crucial the council directs funds in it's budget to where it is needed most. Although desirable, the restoration of the Town Hall, sadly, would be unjustifiable, when people in the Borough are struggling.
2. The upper portion of Victoria hall was closed because it is not suitable for public use at present. The building is not deteriorating in this area, as I understand it, but again, justifying refurbishment at this time would be difficult, and unfair. If DCC reverse their unpopular decision to relocate Glossop Library, the £2m of funding they have set aside could be used to bring the whole of Victoria Hall back into public use.
3. Clearly, the process around the identification and protection of bats has not been as robust as it could have been. There is a lot of rhetoric around 'learning from mistakes'. I would very much hope that those learning outcomes are implemented.

Councillor Jean Wharmby
Party : Conservative
Ward : Dinting
NO ANSWERS

Councillor Caitlin Bisknell (Council Leader)
Party : Labour
Ward : Stone Bench
1. Yes - however, the problem is that once buildings are left empty they do deteriorate - it is only by keeping them in use that we can really solve this condundrum. It is one of the key reasons why we want to see the halls brought back into viable public use because that is the best way to make sure the buildings are looked after.  The longer they are left empty, the worse the problems can become. HPBC recognised over the summer that some repairs to the buildings are now necessary and it will be carrying out those repairs soon.
2. It may be helpful to give some context - from memory - about how the decisions around Glossop's halls were taken. It is also worth noting that most of the current HPBC councillors were not councillors at the time the decisions were taken. The decision to close the Town Hall and the upstairs of Victoria Hall was taken following a cross Party review of all the halls owned by High Peak Borough Council including Hadfield Hall, Glossop Municipal Buildings and Buxton Town Hall as well as Glossop Town Hall and Victoria Hall. The review was, partly, triggered by the decision of the Magistrates Court to stop using Glossop Town Hall. The review included visits to all the buildings by councillors, consideration of how often the halls were used, what investment was needed to ensure they met the terms of the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) and ultimately whether a viable use could be found for the halls. In the case of the upstairs of Victoria Hall, it was used on only a few occasions each year by GODS, and the cost of putting in a lift which was (and is) essential to meet accessibility requirements under the DDA was, at the time, prohibitive.
3. We have now replied the Glossop Bat Group in considerable detail and actions are being taken to address the issues raised.  Bats were not being deliberately ignored by HPBC - but it is recognised that there was a gap in the information we received from our consultants and we are working with Glossop Bat Group to get it right in future.  My colleague Cllr Godfrey Claff has met with the group and is working with it to resolve any outstanding issues.


Councillor Garry Lawrence Parvin
Party : Labour
Ward : Old Glossop
1. I have been assured by officers that Victoria Hall was being maintained to an adequate standard. The issue remains and is if buildings are not in use they quickly fall into disrepair.   The labour group made the issue of the Glossop Halls and getting them back into use a priority and this started the Open Halls Consultation.
2. I understand that last administration decided to close Victoria Hall.  I understand this is because a) it was not being used and b) the top floor did not have adequate access for physically disabled people. The cost of adding a lift is/ was costed at over £400k.  I expect the previous administration undertook a  cost / benefit analysis and concluded that this was an excessive cost.  In my opinion,  it is regrettable that options about keeping the upstairs opened were not indentified as my answer in (1) highlights.  Once a building is not being used; it quickly falls into disrepair.
3. It is clear from the report submitted by the Glossop Bat Group that this is sadly the case.  To be fair to High Peak Council we do commission Derbyshire Wildlife Trust to evaluate planning applications to give the council an assurance about the impact on wildlife (inc bats) of  any substantial planning application.  If this has been inadequate then I would expect the council to investigate this and clearly Glossop Bat Group should have a role in how we get this right in the future.

Councillor Edward Siddall
Party : Labour
Ward : Hadfield South
1. Yes. Victoria Hall is an operational building and maintenance has been carried out to a standard to ensure it remains open and capable of use as a library. It has remained open to the public. The Town Hall is a non- operational building and the maintenance requirement is therefore less. However the purpose of the Open Halls consultation is to find a sustainable community use for the building. Hadfield Hall is the perfect example of community use of a building, a group of people who look after and manage the building, this is what the Town Hall and Victoria Hall need, as the council can't draw on all funding streams without local involvement, currently Hadfield Hall are looking to gain funding and I feel as a model this is the one that the Town Hall and Victoria Hall should have in place.
2. It was closed under the Lib Dem Tory coalition before I was a councillor as not meet Disability Discrimination Act requirements and the cost of bringing it up to this standard was prohibitive.
3.I Have spoken to officers the issues rasied in this question are being looked into.

Councillor George Wharmby
Party : Conservative
Ward : St. Johns
NO ANSWERS

Councillor Ellie Wilcox
Party : Labour
Ward : Padfield
1) I think that the Town Hall and Victoria Hall have been maintained to an 'adequate' standard, but I think it's very important to get these buildings brought back into use.  As people will be aware, local authorities are facing huge reductions to their budgets, therefore it's vitally important that we secure a sustainable future for these buildings.  In Hadfield, we have the example of the Friends of Hadfield Hall Group, who have done an excellent job in bringing the building back into use. They are able raise funds for the hall through craft fairs, community coffee mornings, art exhibitions, and by renting the rooms at a competitive rates, but they are also able to bid for funding from other organisations (e.g. the Heritage Lottery Fund or Derbyshire County Council's Capital Grant). However, it's hard work and time consuming for a group of volunteers to take over the management of a building, and the Friends of Hadfield Hall I think are pretty unique in what they have been able to accomplish. I'm very interested in the social enterprise model, especially when we start to talk about 'Glossop Halls' as a whole.   
2)  The Victoria Hall was closed because of problems surrounding disability access, as well as lack of use. I think that far more could have been done to innovate the useage of the upstairs space, and to source alternative funding opportunities to secure disability access. Keeping a building empty for long periods of time means that it very quickly deteriorates, which in turn causes an even greater problem for councils.   
3)  We currently commission the Derbyshire Wildlife Trust to scrutinize our larger planning applications, which provides us with a report regarding the impact on wildlife.  The recent report from the Glossop Bat Group paints a depressing scenario, and I think that we do need to carefully examine our policies and implement changes where necessary.

Answers from
Derbyshire County Council

Dave Wilcox
Labour, Etherow
1. When buildings are unused they quickly look distressed. The big concern is always structures and a water tight roof. I haven’t noticed any great problems at the library, but that doesn’t mean there are none. The County Council is in effect a tenant of the Borough at Victoria Hall. Maintenance is the responsibility of the landlord.
2. My understanding is that the absence of a lift to accord with Disability Discrimination Legislation was the reason for the upper storey of the building being put on ice.
3. It is important to note that in relation to the old St. Luke’s school building any planning decisions on demolition will be made by the County Council rather than the Borough Council. During the statutory consultation process people will be able to comment on the proposal. In that context it’s important that appropriate consideration is given to questions related to local eco-systems. Many of the people I’ve spoken to say that they don’t think the proposed new library design is in keeping with the buildings in the locality.

Councillor George Wharmby
Party : Conservative, Glossop North & Rural
NO ANSWERS

Councillor Jean Wharmby
Party : Conservative, Glossop South
NO ANSWERS

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