MAJOR DEVELOPMENTS ANNOUNCED IN RELATION TO THE GUILDHALL AND THE ABBEY HALL
Currently the historic rooms of the Guildhall, which date back to the 15th Century, are not available for hire. However they remain fully maintained, and used to deliver public services including the popular and busy Information Centre. The Council is pursuing an ambitious improvement project and we are pleased to report that planning approval has been given to provide the following:
GROUND FLOOR ACCESSIBLE TOILETS
MUNIMENT ROOM FOR THE TOWN’S ARCHIVES WITH EASY ACCESS AND READING ROOM
PLATFORM LIFT TO, FOR THE FIRST TIME, ENABLE DISABLED ACCESS TO OLD MAGISTRATES COURT
IMPROVEMENTS TO THE RECEPTION AREA
COMPLETE RE-PAVING OF ROYSSE COURT GARDENS, INCLUDING THE REMOVAL OF THE STEPS ON THE SOUTH SIDE OF THE GARDENS.
Completion of the above will enable us to re-open the Ground Floor of the Guildhall to the public in 2018.
It is also Council’s intention to open the rest of the Historic Building in 2018, but at present there is no disabled access to the Bear Room, Council Chamber or Abbey Room.
Council has a strong desire to improve Inclusivity in all its buildings, and particularly the Guildhall. Our proposed way of doing this is controversial as it would necessitate alterations to a historic staircase in order to install a lift. We believe that this staircase has been altered extensively in the past and we are currently researching this. The Council has also agreed to seek an independent expert who can assess the real significance of this staircase. When these investigations are completed then the Council will engage further with both the Planning Authority and Historic England in the hope that a practical and affordable solution can be found in order that Council can meet the needs of all its residents.
THE ABBEY HALL
In line with its policy decision taken earlier this year, the Council is currently in discussion with other public-sector partners regarding how best to utilise Abbey Hall for the widest possible Community use. These discussions are proving fruitful, with both ambitious and exciting ideas coming forward. The opportunities coming forward may present a once in a lifetime opportunity for progress in the town centre. Our Public-Sector partners are aware that Council wishes to share these ideas with Abingdon residents as quickly as possible, and we are doing everything that we are asked in order to facilitate this.
Council wishes to make clear that Abbey Hall continues to be properly maintained, and is not being allowed to deteriorate during this period. The Council has also taken the decision to commission survey works to ascertain the feasibility of bringing the Abbey Hall back in to use at an early date.
Council is aware that a petition is being circulated regarding the future of the Guildhall and the Abbey Hall. The petition states (in capitals) “DO NOT SELL THE ABBEY HALL FOR DEVELOPMENT.” We can categorically put on record that there are no proposals to sell the Abbey Hall “for development.” Consequently the petition is – unintentionally or otherwise – both misleading and flawed. The widest possible Community use remains our firm objective.