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).

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