By Kit Sandeman, Local Democracy Reporter
Broxtowe Borough Council has voted to sell Beeston Town Hall to an evangelical church.
At a full council meeting inside the building on Wednesday (October 17), which will now be sold for just under £500,000, the Conservative-run council was accused of ignoring the will of its residents.
The council said it was costing too much to run the building, which was ‘surplus to requirements’ and that it can use the money from the sale to fund front-line services.
Members of the public filled the gallery, and the meeting was broadcast to another room in the building due to the number of attendees.
After the decision was made, there were cries of ‘shame’ and ‘disgrace’ from the public gallery.
The long-running saga of the sale started last year, when it emerged the council was considering demolishing the town hall to make way for a new development.
A campaign group and a petition were set up, and after a public consultation the council decided to look at bids for what to do with the building.
The Cornerstone Church, an evangelical church in Nottingham, put in a bid, as did a community group formed by campaigners. The church’s bid was preferred.
Last night in a packed Town Hall, the final decision was made on the building.
A visibly emotional Councillor Josie Marsters, who represents the Eastwood St Mary’s ward for the Liberal Democrats, said: “I feel you rubbished this community group, you were very disrespectful in your comments to them.
“I am getting a bit choked because I feel this group has the heart, the skill and the hard work needed to make this work, and we should be supporting these people.”
Conservative leader Councillor Richard Jackson, who represents the Attenborough and Chilwell East ward, said it would mean net savings for the council of around £1 million, as it would not have to pay the £85,000-a-year running costs of the building and would gain money from the sale.
He said: “The decision tonight is to carry on as we are with this building, underused and redundant as it is, or to sell it to a community group which is going to turn it into what they describe as a community hub.”
Councillor Philip Owen, who represents the Nuthall East and Strelley ward for the Conservatives, said the bid by the church was ‘far better’ than the community bid.
Speaking about the community bid, he said: “Their bid was ill-prepared and financially not sound. It is predicated on at least £50,000 a year in grants coming in. And who do you think they are going to ask for the £50,000 if they were given a lease? They would ask Broxtowe Borough Council, can you give us some money?
“I as a council tax payer in the north of the borough along with many others, am sick and tired of putting money into Beeston Town Hall, now is the time to take action, we’ve got a wonderful opportunity to do something, let’s grab it with both hands.”
Councillor Greg Marshall is the leader of the Labour group on the council, and represents the Beeston West ward.
He said: “The most important aspect of all, is you (pointing to the public gallery). We have all as councillors sat in meeting upon meeting where there hasn’t been a soul in the public gallery, and we have talked as a cabal among ourselves.
“The volume of people here tonight is important. It is instructive to us as councillors, it is instructive that on this particular issue, if there is anything we believe, it’s that your voice matters, and by being here tonight it shows that you matter. If it matters this much to the people of Broxtowe then as councillors and as officers we have a duty to listen.”
The vote was passed by 24 to 13 with two abstentions. All Conservative councillors voted in favour, all but one Labour councillor voted against, and the two abstentions were from councillors Richard McCrae (independent, Stapleford North) and councillor Robinson (Labour, Kimberley).