Category Archives: Bedford Hall

City Council gives four options for Bedford Hall

Bedford Hall

Pressure is increasing on the village to take on the running costs of the Bedford Hall.

Peterborough City Council, which currently owns the building and is responsible for repairs and maintenance, says it can no longer afford the costs.

It wants to either sell the building or transfer ownership and responsibility for its upkeep to the village.

The Bedford Hall and its distinctive tower was built by the Duke of Bedford as part of his model village project. The tower housed a water tank, which provided running water to cottages, and there were workshops and homes in the rest of the building.

In 1981, it was converted to a community hall, under the ownership of the city council with a long lease to a village management committee which looks after day-to-day running and bookings.

The city council has already decided to sell the old community centre and library buildings in Church Street, which is expected to raise £235,000, and has promised that money to fund a new library, provide a grant towards a new sports pavilion and pay for essential repairs to the Bedford Hall.

It has offered the village four options:

  • Move the library to the Bedford Hall and transfer the building to the village.
  • Move the library to the Duke of Bedford School and transfer the Bedford Hall to the village.
  • Sell both the Church Street property and the Bedford Hall and build a new community/sports facility.
  • Do nothing – which the council says is not viable due to costs.

A meeting on March 8 of Thorney Parish Council, the current Bedford Hall Management Committee and members of the Thorney Society agreed to ask the council for more detail on cost of repairs.

Council estimates put these at £271,000, plus costs of up to £108,000 to move the library to the Bedford Hall. The meeting was concerned that there were other costs the council was not considering, such as subsidence and damp in the part of the building that houses the museum, also potential problems in the cellars and tower which have not been thoroughly surveyed.

The meeting pointed out that even trusting current council estimates of repairs plus the library move, the sale of Church Street property will not cover those costs. Even without a contribution towards a new sports pavilion, there’s a deficit of £143,000.

Some members of the Bedford Hall Management Committee were keen to take on the building and felt the council’s costs were grossly over-estimated. Nathan Potts thought they could use local village craftsmen and have work done much more cheaply.

“Council figures are nonsense; the building isn’t falling down and we would prefer to spend the money ourselves. If we had control of how it’s spent, where and when, we’d get much better value,” he said.

Other people felt money spent on moving the library would be a waste and questioned whether the village needed a library. Parish councillor Ray Wood said: “For the amount of use the library gets, we should get rid of it. Get a mobile one instead.”

The Thorney Society is committed to keeping the Bedford Hall as a community asset. Chairman, Michael Sly pointed out that the village had a lease on the building until 2079 and therefore didn’t have to do anything.

A letter has been sent to the council asking for more detail of costs and whether land around the building would be included in the transfer.


Since the meeting on March 8 in the village, there was a further meeting on March 29. Kate Harding, Senior Peterborough City Council Officer responsible for Community Asset Transfer,  chaired the meeting, which started off with each of those present giving their thoughts on what they would like to see happen.

The preservation of the Bedford Hall complex was top of people’s agenda, but at what cost?  John Bartlett, chairman of Thorney Parish Council, said he was opposed to any cost being added to the Parish Precept to fund the Bedford Hall.

It was stated that all the exterior maintenance of the Bedford Hall was Peterborough City Council’s responsibility, and the internal maintenance was the responsibility of the Bedford Hall Management committee.

John Bartlett stated very little if any work had been undertaken by PCC on the Bedford Hall during the last 10 years.

Michael Sly, chairman of The Thorney Society, said the Bedford Hall needs to be run on a more commercial basis, with parts let out to private businesses .  The cast iron tank at the top of the tower could be removed (by a tower crane) as this would relieve any stress on the tower’s brickwork.  The bar area could be reconfigured so more use of the tower could take place.  He also stated the land to the north of the Bedford Hall should be transferred to the new committee.  Michael Sly said that within the Thorney area resided villagers with commercial and business skills that could be used for the future of the Bedford Hall Complex.  These people have a great deal to offer and must be used.

Jeff Bellamy, chair of the Bedford Hall Management Committee, said the Bedford Hall was used by village organisations most days and evenings of the week, but they only paid a minimum rate.  The Bedford Hall is registered for weddings which are popular and a commercial rent is charged but this could be increased.  At present the Bedford Hall just managed to balance its accounts.

Cllr Steve Allen, one of three city councillors representing Eye, Thorney and Newborough on the City Council, stated the Bedford Hall was a unique building and must be preserved not just as  a community asset but something Peterborough City Council should be proud of and support.

Kate Harding, when asked about the relocation of the Library, said plans to transfer it to the Duke of Bedford Primary School were being looked at bearing in mind the school needs to expand to take in more children.  The safe-guarding of children was also raised.

The sale of the library and old Social Centre was mentioned and that money from this sale would be available for community use in Thorney.

It was mentioned that a new pavilion in Thorney Park was urgently required.  But concerns were raised about residents living in Tavistock Close not being happy with any development in Thorney Park.  These concerns need to be addressed by all parties involved, including Thorney Football Club.

Cllr Irene Walsh, Cabinet Member for Communities, said that the Bedford Hall was a unique building and that it would be treated differently to other Community Centres involved in the asset transfer by Peterborough City Council.

As the meeting drew to a close Kate Harding said it was important that discussions continued.  At the next meeting Planning Officers and Education Officers would attend, along with Adrian Chapman, Senior PCC Officer, Responsible for Asset Transfer, who should be able to give more details of possible funding from the Mayor of the Joint Authority for Peterborough and Cambridgeshire.

Photo: © Richard Humphrey

At least £350,000 needed to fix Bedford Hall

Bedford Hall

At least £350,000 will be needed to fix Bedford Hall, according to Thorney Parish Council.

The Parish Council discussed the future of the building this week, having received some reports on its condition.

Peterborough City Council, which owns Bedford Hall and is responsible for the maintenance of the listed building, wants to give the building to the village, but that means we would also be responsible for repairs.

The City Council has said it will use monies from the sale of the old Church Street Community Centre to fund repairs and also the move of the library, but the Parish Council is concerned the sale will not raise enough.

The Parish Council is still waiting for a formal letter confirming exactly what the City are offering in respect of the building and have said that no further discussion will be held until they have that letter.

This is the full text of the Parish Council’s statement regarding Bedford Hall:

BEDFORD HALL, THORNEY 9 January 2018. – Thorney Parish Council comments on Survey Information and Library Relocation Proposals received on 4 January 2018 from Caroline Rowan, City Council SURVEY (Refs: 23-27-8-3-1006 December 2017 + 23-27-18-3-1006)

Our initial reaction to these building surveys and the additional information they contain is a concern that this historic, listed building has been so neglected and allowed to fall into such a state of disrepair. We are also concerned by the number of items needing attention particularly as many of them are given Condition Rating ‘C’ ( Exhibits major or multiple defects) or ‘D’ ( Life expired, Exhibits major deterioration, Serious risk of imminent failure).

We note the overall costs of these works (excluding mechanical and electrical works) is estimated to be £176,660. As to some extent the survey is rather superficial, it seems likely that the closer inspection and testing suggested in the survey for a number of items will increase this cost.

Is it proposed that this closer inspection/testing is put in hand in order that a more accurate assessment is made of the building’s condition with the estimate revised accordingly? We believe the only way to establish what the real costs may be would be by putting these works out for tender and including a contingency for extras as the work progressed.

LIBRARY ( Hanson Barron Smith drawings HBS -DR-B 01 + HBS – DR – B 02) Either arrangement seems satisfactory. We assume they both have the approval of Vivacity.

Both show a point of access but no alternative means of escape is indicated for either – does this comply with current regulations?

We assume the budget costs ( £93,000 to £108,000) are for the refurbishment of either Unit 3 or 5 only and do not include for any mechanical or electrical infrastructure to the other areas in this rear part of the building e.g. heating, lighting, smoke detection, fire alarm system etc.

Can it be confirmed whether or not any basic works will be carried out to the parts of this building not allocated to the Library. It is possible that the proposed village referendum to determine the future of the Bedford Hall may indicate a preference for the funds to be allocated to other works to the building rather than a library.

GENERAL The costs allocated as above to the survey works and the library total £284,660. If the forecast costs in the mechanical and electrical survey (M+E Condition Survey Report 17 February 2017) are added to this (£59,017) the total increases to £343,677. This figure not only exceeds the monies that are expected from the sale of the City Council’s Church Street property but probably does not present the Parish with a fully usable building.

We query how this monetary shortfall will be dealt with and how those areas of the rear building will be refurbished rather than left in their current run down and non-usable condition. We look forward to receipt of the City Council’s ‘Offer’ which we trust will be to offer this listed building in a complete state of repair and fit for use in its entirety with sufficient other proposals to make this an attractive and viable proposition for consideration in a referendum in the Parish.

We would be grateful if we can be provided with information regarding the organisation and supervision of a referendum together with an estimate of the likely cost.

Still waiting for Bedford Hall proposal

Bedford Hall

The future of a Thorney landmark and key village amenity remained unclear as the Thorney Post went to press, with the parish council and the hall’s management committee still waiting for a formal proposal from Peterborough City Council.

The city council wants to transfer ownership (and responsibility) for the Bedford Hall to the village, but there is concern that very expensive repairs and renovation work may be needed.

Peterborough City Council also wants to sell the old community centre and library buildings in Church Street and has agreed to use some of that money to move the library and undertake needed repairs to the Bedford Hall.

The Bedford Hall, with its distinctive tower, was built by the Duke of Bedford as a key part of the model village project. The tower once housed a huge water tank which supplied running water to homes and the basement contained steam engines used to pump water from Thorney River into the tank. The building also contained workshops for local craftsmen and businesses.

Now, it is the villages meeting hall, a venue for weddings, village events and houses the Thorney Heritage Museum. There are two large rooms at the back of the building which are unused and one of those is earmarked as the location for Thorney Library.

At a meeting in April, Caroline Rowan, Communities Estates Manager at the city council said they expected to get up to £250,000 from the sale of the library and former community centre in Church Street.

The council has offered to give this money to the village to help with the upkeep of the Bedford Hall, but want to use some of it to make repairs to the building and to move the library. They have also promised to use some of the cash to help Thorney Football Club build a new pavilion in the park.

It is estimated it will cost between £60,000 and £150,000 to move the library, depending upon the specification of its new location; there’s an estimated £101,000 which needs to be spent on repairs to Bedford Hall; and the council has promised the football club £20,000.

The council presented a document detailing estimated costs of repairs to the Bedford Hall and Bill van Driessche of the hall’s management committee felt some of the charges quoted were way too high.

Russ Bevington of Thorney Parish Council thought the survey undertaken by the city council was missing key elements. “It states that some areas could not be accessed and that other issues needed further investigation.

“We know the museum is subsiding at the rear and suffers from damp in places, but there is no mention of this in the report. The whole building needs to be fixed in full before the parish takes it on.”

Mr Bevington asked the council to provide a fully costed schedule of work, including repairs that would need to be undertaken immediately, those within the next two years and those that would require repair longer term.

Caroline Rowan said the cost of a new pavilion for Thorney FC was estimated at £250,000. She said grants were available from various bodies, including the Football Association, but some seed funding would be required in order to be eligible to apply for these. She estimated that £20,000 would get them on the ladder.

She has asked the Parish Council and Bedford Hall Management Committee to form a working party to take discussions forward. In the meantime, the council has promised to fit CCTV to deter vandalism. Youths have broken windows and climbed onto the roof at the rear of the building, damaging tiles and gutters.

Bill van Driessche asked if the parish could form its own building company to commission work. “We have lots of craftsmen in the village who would be able to undertake repair and maintenance work and we could do it much more efficiently ourselves.”

Steve Allen, one of three city councillors representing Eye, Thorney and Newborough, said that ongoing costs would have to be met by revenue generated by the Bedford Hall. He wondered if the library and post office could be combined.

Since April, little has happened. The full structural survey has not taken place and the village is waiting for a formal proposal.

At its meeting on July 10, the parish council was told that the proposal would be arriving soon and that a specialist company would undertake the survey. Steve Allen, one of Thorney’s representatives on the city council, said there was a degree of frustration that the process was taking so long, but Russ Bevington of Thorney PC said that the village was no pushing for this to happen and, in many respects, the longer it took, the better it was.

John Bartlett, chairman of Thorney Parish Council, said that at the end of the day, the final decision whether or not to take on responsibility for Bedford Hall would have to be put to the village in a referendum.

A small working party has been set up to liaise with council sub-contractors regarding plans to move the library. It will comprise Jeff Bellamy (vice-chair of the Bedford Hall management committee), John Bartlett and Russ Bevington (both Thorney Parish Council).