Future of St Albans Town Hall management uncertain

THE future of St Albans town hall hangs in the balance as rumours circulate that its management may be passed back to the council.

At present it is run by a charity which took over part of the refurbished landmark building two years ago. Less than a year later there were concerns about the number of bookings at the prestigious venue, which had just undergone a �1.5 million facelift.

Starts Town Hall Limited (STHL) is the trading arm of St Albans Arts, a charity set up to foster the arts in St Albans.

STHL took over the running of the main part of the town hall in March 2008. It was initially sub-let to them for what is believed to be a peppercorn rent.

The Grade 2 listed building is one of the city’s top tourist attractions and has been used for weddings, art exhibitions and various one-off concerts but has never really been used to its fullest extent.

A spokesman for STHL answered its early critics with the explanation that taking over the town hall on a commercial basis had been “a steep learning curve”.

He said STHL had to struggle to find the funds in the beginning to pay for basic items like curtains and blinds which had put off potential hirers. One businessman who had been interested in hiring the venue said he backed off when told he would be expected to pay �400 a night for the ballroom when he was only paying �100 a night elsewhere.

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Town hall manager Joel Baillie-Lane denied any claims that STHL would be losing control over the building: “There is no truth in the rumour that St Albans District Council are taking over from us.”

But a spokesperson for St Albans District Council said they were not in a position to comment on the situation at present.

The Town Hall was designed by George Smith and built in 1829 to provide a town hall and courtroom in the Greek revival style popular at that time for civic buildings.