Saffron Walden Town Hall lottery bid failure leaves councillors to decide next step

Saffron Walden Town Hall.

Saffron Walden Town Hall. - Credit: Archant

The town’s “most important building” has lost out on a £1million lottery bid to bring its history to life.

The town’s “most important building” has lost out on a £1million lottery bid to bring its history to life.

Hopes of revitalising Saffron Walden Town Hall under a proposed £2.5m revamp were dashed on Monday, when councillors heard that their bid for £1m funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) had been unsuccessful.

Upon hearing that the vision to turn the town hall into a vibrant tourist attraction now hung in the balance, town councillor Mike Hibbs said: “The town hall is the social centre of Saffron Walden. It’s without a doubt the most important building in the town and we need to preserve it. Saffron Walden has a great story to tell about the town, with the greatest number of 17th century buildings in the country.”

Spearheaded by Cllr David Watson, the transformation plan for the 250-year-old building included increased accessibility for young and old, a new theatre bar and interactive maps.

Victorian cells and the Court Room were also to be brought back to life under the plans, developed by Kay Pilsbury Thomas Architects, which had passed the feasibility phase and were lodged with HLF in November last year.

The town council is expected to receive a detailed explanation of why the bid failed over the next few days.

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Members have spoken about hoping to try again – though this will now likely be after the elections in May, when a new council will be in place.

“Obviously it’s disappointing, but we’ll try and do our best in terms of what needs to be done to maintain the town hall and keep it open and active as a community asset,” said Cllr Ben Balliger.

“I’m sure we’ll be making another application in the future – it won’t deter us,” he added.

At the meeting of the property, services, personnel and finance committee, where news broke of the unsuccessful bid, members voted to go ahead with external repairs to the town hall which had been approved two years ago – which were however not tied up with the heritage bid, which focuses on an internal revamp.

“It’s disappointing,” Mayor Sandra Eden told the Reporter.

“I can’t say what the new council will do – it will be put to the forthcoming council after May. They could say let’s carry on with it, they might not.”

A spokesperson for Heritage Lottery Fund said: “The application from Saffron Walden Town Council sought to use the town hall as a focus for telling visitors about the town’s history.

“We appreciate that local people will be disappointed by this outcome. Sometimes we do not have enough funds to support all the projects we receive. We will discuss with the town council options for moving forward...[with] any future proposals.”