Town hall management deal aims to improve its use for events
Biddulph Town Council has “signed on the dotted line” to take over the management of the town hall following three years of negotiations.
After entering into a 25-year lease with Staffordshire Moorlands District Council which owns the building, the town council will take over its day-to-day running.
Councillors and officers said they wanted to dedicate the town hall's services to people who live in the town, make the process of booking the venue easier, and offer opportunities to local people.
The town council's chief officer, Sarah Haydon said: “It's exciting news for the town. Our motivation was to have a building in the town centre which was specifically for the town.
“When it's safe to do so, we want people to use it for concerts, for dancing classes, for getting weighed - all sorts of things!
“It has taken us three years to get to this position. Now we have taken it over, we will be responsible for all of the maintenance and what happens inside the town hall. Generally, the building is in good condition but it does need some work done inside, like lights changing and that sort of thing.”
One of the town council's aims in taking over the building is to streamline the booking process, which was said to be “difficult” in the past.
Mrs Haydon added: “We're looking at setting costs for bookings. We want to price it to be quite competitive locally.
“Lots of people of an older generation in Biddulph will say that they got married there or held big events in times gone by. But if you tried to book it now it would take you ages to work out where to go or how to do it.
“We're not sure that the town council will make money from bookings, it's not a cheap building to run, but we will probably make some savings.
“We have been through a recruitment process and have two new ladies to do reception duties when it officially opens.
“Another thing that we want to do while we are running it is to work with more local tradespeople.
“The district council had a relationship with Derbyshire county council who hired people for maintenance work and they were not necessarily people who lived and worked in the Moorlands.
“We want to offer opportunities to local people while we are running the town hall.”
Labour councillor Kevin Jackson has been involved in the process of taking over the town hall since talks began.
He said: “As a town council we felt that we weren't getting the full potential out of the town hall and that it should be used as more of a community facility.
“Now that it has been signed over, we are going to change how the venue is booked and hopefully get a bit more commercialism out of it.”
The town mayor, independent councillor John Jones, said: “It has been a torturous lo road, several years in the making.
“There was a general dissatisfaction with the way that the district council ran the place, and it was underused as well. That was largely down to how difficult it was to book it, but that process will get a lot slicker with the town council running it - it will be a lot more accessible to the public.
“Hopefully the band I am in will be able to book it as soon as it becomes available and we can raise some money for the charities I am supporting as mayor - but by the time it is safe to put on events, I might not be the mayor anymore!” The town council is still in negotiations with the district council about taking over the visitor centre at Biddulph Grange Country Park.
Mrs Haydon said it is “on the cusp of getting the visitor centre signed off” and that once it has taken over, the town council will face “the big task” of having it rewired.