The future of a Thorney landmark and key village amenity became a little clearer on Monday evening as Peterborough City Council pledged to use most of the money from the sale of the library and old community centre in Church Street to fund the Bedford Hall.
The city council currently owns the Bedford Hall complex, including museum, the tower and unused former workshops at the back of the building, but is keen for the village to take ownership. It also wants to move the library from Church Street to the Bedford Hall.
But the Parish Council and the Bedford Hall Management Committee are insisting that expensive repairs and renovation take place before any transfer.
On Monday evening (April 3), a special meeting was held between Peterborough City Council, Thorney Parish Council and members of the Bedford Hall Management Committee.
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.
These are listed buildings and used to be the village’s girls’ school.
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.
John Bartlett, chairman of Thorney Parish Council, said that at the end of the day, the final decision would have to be put to the village in a referendum.