Friday, September 7, 2018

News: Councillors consider future of Wath Hall


The former Wath Town Hall in Rotherham could about to be transferred over to a social enterprise or local group and be used as a community hub.

Rothbiz reported in May that Rotherham Council had surprised those aiming to save the building when it began an exercise earlier this year to gather expressions of interest for "the possible freehold disposal, commercial lease or asset transfer lease of Wath Town Hall."

The leading option, set to be agreed this month, will enable the building to be used for the benefit of the local community by a community interest group.

The Town Hall has been a Council owned property for over 100 years, firstly as the Town Hall for Wath Urban District Council and latterly as a branch office for Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council. In 2015, the Council authority declared that the hall was surplus to requirements and its future became uncertain.

A social enterprise called Wath Hall Ltd. was set up to save Wath Town Hall for community use and took on the task of renovating and redecorating the ground floor as it looked to establish a number of uses for the building - a heritage centre, community education hub, cafe and small business centre. It took on a lease but has been seeking a long term lease at a peppercorn rent.


Later this month, Rotherham's cabinet and commissioners are set to approve the option to to dispose of the grade II listed building in accordance with the statutory procedures for disposal of Assets of Community Value.

The site extends to approximately 1.65 acres and the building on Church Street was originally built in 1770 and occupies the site of a fourteenth century manor house. Wath Hall Ltd worked to secure the site as a registered Asset of Community Value in 2016, giving it additional protection from development.

Despite a proposal to dispose of the property to Wath Hall Ltd, the Asset of Community Value nomination gives community interest groups a right to bid on the property.

If the option is approved, other groups will need to come forward during an initial six week period in order to be treated as a potential bidder. If none do so, then the asset can be disposed of at the end of the six weeks. If a request is made, the remainder of a moratorium period will operate. During this time, the Council are free to market the property and negotiate a disposal but may not exchange contracts.

Once the six month period expires, the Council will be free to dispose of the property as they see fit. The Council can dispose of property at less than best value if it considers that it will help to secure the promotion or improvement of the economic, social or environmental wellbeing of its area.

Rory Hague, estates surveyor at Rotherham Council, explains: "This is the recommended option because it would allow the District Office to be used for the benefit of the local community by a community interest group. Wath Hall Ltd are such a group but other community interest groups would have the opportunity to bid during the statutory moratorium period.

"If no bids from community interest groups result in completion being achieved during the statutory moratorium period the District Office would be disposed of at market value."

Images: RMBC


Martyn Benson,  September 7, 2018 at 11:30 AM  

The saga about bringing the building back into use for community benefit has been going for several years. It would seem unfair that if the group of local people that have already put time, effort and their own money money into the building, on the community's behalf, was to now lose out on being able to properly take over the building.

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