Plans to turn the Grade II listed Sandown Town Hall into housing have been passed by the Isle of Wight Council.
As reported by News OnTheWight last summer, concerns, however, were raised about ensuring the history of the building on Grafton Street, which was built in 1869 and could feature paintings done by artist Henry Tooth, was retained.
11 residential units
Proposals were submitted last year to turn the building, which once housed the town’s fire station, into 11 residential units: six one-bed flats, four two-bed houses and a four-bed maisonette.
It will also be mixed-use with the main hall being updated, made safe and eventually rented out for community use.
Refurbishment costs around £1.8 million
The hall itself is said to be ‘crumbling’ and costs be refurbish the site are estimated at around £1.8 million. The semi-detached houses would be built first to enable the funding of further restoration of the hall.
Plans were submitted by the council’s regeneration team after plans to sell the site fell through as no offers came forward.
Ward: Objectors have grandiose ideas with no funding
Cllr Ian Ward said times had changed and the hall was not used now compared to how it was back in its heyday when it was bursting with life, which was ‘firmly in its past’ and welcomed the application.
“The building is a blight on our community. It is dangerous, it has crumbling walls, a poor roof and it attracts vandalism and anti-social behaviour.
“Objectors have grandiose ideas with no funding, so the building will rot for another decade.”
Jones-Evans: Tooth artwork needs to be taken seriously
Cllr Julie Jones-Evans, however, said the potential case of the missing Henry Tooth artwork in the building needs to be taken seriously.
References to work by the famous artist are made in documentation about the hall, but there is no visual evidence within the building.
Officers say they may have been covered up during previous alterations and there will be stages before and during the development for further investigation in the former reading room and hall particularly, to see whether there are such works surviving in the building and what will be done, if there is, to record and preserve them.
Cllr Jones-Evans said if there are pieces by Tooth in the building, it could turn what the council do with the building completely on its head and cultural-lead regeneration should happen instead.
The majority of the council’s planning committee voted in favour of the application, with ten votes for, but Cllr Jones-Evans voted against the regeneration.
This article is from the BBC’s LDRS (Local Democracy Reporter Service) scheme, which OnTheWight is taking part in. Some alterations and additions may have been made by OnTheWight. Ed
Image: © Claire Hector