Contributed by Dr. Angela Drakakis-Smith
The Guildhall refurbishment, as far as we can see, has been a good thing. The building is one of the now few elegant structures in the town centre and it is fitting that this now forms the town’s centre piece. The fact that it has been transformed into a public building with free access, is a bonus. It would., however, be regrettable if this building was used to siphon away scrutiny and accountability from the council offices where the main business of administration of the Borough used to occur.
Access to the Guildhall means that other buildings in the town centre can be seen from a new perspective. The second floor gives visual access to the upper storeys of the buildings opposite – some of them very old. Nearly all of them require some form of urgent refurbishment from a lick of paint to new window frames and roof repairs if they are to survive in the original.
Some restoration work has begun in the Iron Market. The former Victoria Wine Merchants is undergoing a long-overdue face lift which has the effect of improving this part of town already. The former chemist shop (Wain’s) has also received grant aid to restore its front sash windows. and grant aid is being sought for the refurbishment of the Queen Victoria statue. The empty shops in the town should be seen as an opportunity for revamping ground level frontages and upper storeys. However the long neglect and lack of focus for other buildings will mean that the restoration of the town could take quite a while. But at least the process has begun!
The setting up of a Local List is thus vital and even imperative for those buildings not protected by Conservation Area status and given the poor state of some of the buildings within the town Centre Conservation Area and outside it.