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Council services and iconic building saved

By The Cornishman  |  Posted: March 14, 2013

The future of St John's Hall, Penzance has been secured.

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THE FUTURE of an iconic Penzance building has been secured after Cornwall Council gave permission for a multi-million-pound investment programme.

Parts of St John's Hall have been in a dire state for years and a major cash injection was needed to stop it crumbling further.

The council's Cabinet yesterday gave unanimous backing for £5.6 million to be pumped into revitalising the listed building, which will be used to deliver the authority's services in Penzance.

The move has been celebrated locally where many people were adamant money should be found to save the hall.

"We are very pleased," said Paul Young, chairman of the Penzance Civic Society.

"St John's is a wonderful building. It is a landmark, historic site. We are enormously pleased that it is being kept and is in a good position to serve the town."

A report was handed to Cabinet yesterday outlining a vision for the venue and other County Hall assets in Penzance.

It recommended the council not only refurbish the hall but declare nearby St Clare, where services like the one stop shop are currently based, surplus to requirements.

In need of vital repair works to the tune of £800,000, St Clare has been slammed as inefficient and of poor condition. A separate report, looking at how to dispose of this building, will be presented to the Cabinet.

Also on the list of assets to be sold or disposed of are Penzance Register Office, which will see its services move to St John's Hall, the town clerk's office, and the Penlee House stable block, which will be returned to Penzance Town Council, subject to a further report.

Penzance Library is also earmarked for sale. A deal, the report said, had been struck with Truro and Penwith College, which already owns part of the building, for a price tag of £100,000.

"Truro and Penwith College has agreed its willingness to purchase the existing library building for education, training and community use," said David Walrond, the college principal.

"The college has not finalised plans as to how the building will be used but areas under consideration include teaching and learning in catering and hospitality, childcare, and aspects of art and design.

"It gives the college the ability to extend even further the considerable investment that it has already made in developing educational and community facilities in Penzance."

It is hoped around £2 million can be made from selling off these assets. Prudential borrowing, where the council pays for the borrowing itself, is set to pay for the rest of the St John's bill.

The aim of the shake-up is to save County Hall more than £100,000 a year in the long run, as well as providing improved access for the public.

The Royal Geological Society, which is based in the west wing of St John's, has agreed to hand over its part of the building to Cornwall Council for £1.

The 200-year-old organisation would still have a presence in the building with a store room and display area.

"I am delighted that Cornwall Council is going to invest in the town," said county councillor Mario Fonk.

If all goes smoothly, development will start and be completed during 2014-15.

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