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Protesters to spend Christmas in occupied Town Hall

Protesters vowed to occupy Fenton Town hall over Christmas and beyond following today’s meeting between the Ministry of Justice, Rob Flello MP, local campaigners and the Victorian Society.

Inside Fenton Town Hall, Stoke-on-Trent

Protesters vowed to occupy Fenton Town hall over Christmas and beyond following today’s meeting between the Minister for the Courts and Legal Aid, Shailesh Vara, Rob Flello MP, local campaigners and the Victorian Society. When Mr Vara asked whether the protesters would leave the town hall they stated that they would not as they had not received assurances that they would have four months to prepare a business plan for community use of the Town Hall before a decision was made about its future. It is believed that the Government is currently considering two other private sector bids for the building.

At the meeting the Government also stated that it:

  • will place a restrictive covenant on the First World War Memorial to ensure it is preserved following a sale. However, this would not guarantee the preservation of the building, nor would it allow public access
  • could not just give the building away as it had a duty to the taxpayer and to the public to secure best value. Although the Government had not paid to erect the building it had paid for its maintenance for many years. However, it conceded that there are other types of value other than purely monetary which could be considered when making a decision as to the future of the Hall
  • had not received a detailed business plan from the local community. However, it later emerged that they had not been asked directly to produce one, and had been given no assurances that one would be properly addressed if they did so, and
  • was not opposed in principle to the building going to the community. However, it would not guarantee a time period to allow a business plan to be prepared.

The protesters are now preparing for Christmas in the town hall. Four Christmas trees are being readied, one of which is to be decorated with a bauble for each of the names listed on the WWI memorial.

Rob Flello MP has secured a debate on the future of the Town Hall tonight in Parliament.

Urban Vision, which has been working on a proposal for a Community Asset Transfer of the Town Hall, stated that producing a detailed proposal for the community’s plans had been difficult given the lack of information or assurances from the Ministry of Justice.

While not directly supporting the community’s occupation of the Town Hall or their bid, the Victorian Society believes that whatever use is found for Fenton Town Hall, its former council chamber and First World War memorial should remain intact and accessible to the public.

Tuesday 18 November, 2014

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