Sandown councillors are calling for a halt to the Isle of Wight council’s planning application to demolish parts of and convert the Old Town Hall.
The building on Grafton Street, which is Grade II listed, has been owned by the Isle of Wight council since the early 1980s.
Lack of access to building
Concerned residents tell News OnTheWight they’ve been trying to gain access to the building for sometime in order to check on the surviving heritage but have been refused.
They have also slammed the council’s Heritage Statement as being “totally inadequate”.
Indeed, the council’s own archaeological officer has advised that no decision should be made until access can be gained to determine the building’s historical significance.
Moratorium on the application
Cllr Debbie Andre (Isle of Wight councillor for Sandown North) has opposed the application, saying,
“The application in the current form presented, and the Listed Building Consents being applied for, would render any future meaningful Heritage and Civic use being irrevocably lost.”
She is calling for a 12 month moratorium on the planning application,
“To give an opportunity, now that a great deal of historical research has identified significant historical significance relating to the late 19th century, to access funding streams that might previously not have been available.”
The town councillor for Sandown North Ward, Cllr Heather Humby, has also called for a six-month halt, adding
“It is extremely disappointing that the Isle of Wight Council, as owners of the building, appear not to have commissioned a Written Scheme of Investigation as part of the planning process.
“A WSI, recommended as good practice by Historic England, would investigate and record historic elements of the Town Hall at risk of being lost or harmed as a result of the planning proposals.”
What is planned
In its application, the IWC say the main features of the building, the front elevation, the hall and the main staircase will all be retained and restored, together with the windows.
They say “later inappropriate and unsympathetic extensions” will be removed from the rear of the building. This includes a two-storey flat roof extension on the Caretaker’s cottage, and a single storey flat roof extension on the rear of the Fire Station – the IWC say this is causing damp in the main hall.
Converted into dwellings
Although the hall will be retained for public use, the rest of the building will be converted into dwellings, with two new houses being built, and the former fire station and caretaker’s cottages being converted to make eleven units.
In 2017 the council planned to put the building on the market – it was then listed as an Asset of Community Value. However, no offers were made within the consultation period and it has remained empty ever since.
Have your say
Residents have until Monday 13th July to submit their comments to the Isle of Wight council planning department (ref: 20/00456/LBC).
You can see the application in full on the council’s Website, along with comments from residents and stakeholders.
The council’s Heritage Statement is embedded below for your convenience.