A TOWN hall ‘plagued with threats of closure’ is hoped to become a community space with a raft of improvements in the pipeline, if planning permission is granted.
An application has been lodged with Barnsley Council’s planning department to create a cinema screen room, bar, cafe and kitchen, and community spaces at Penistone Town Hall on Shrewsbury Road.
It’s hoped the works will ‘help Penistone become the vibrant market town it should be’.
The application made by the council’s economic regeneration department proposes a new accessible entrance and internal changes to the historic building, which opened in 1914 and lies within a conservation area.
Used as an army recruitment centre during the First World War, for dances and fundraisers during the Second World War, and then of limited use since, it is deemed ‘of local interest’ but not listed.
Penistone West Coun Hannah Kitching said renovating the building has been on the agenda since before she was elected but it was ‘exciting it’s finally coming to fruition’.
“It’s something I’m passionate about,” she said.
“There’s a huge amount of investment going into the town centre and it’s important our peripheral towns - Penistone is a key one - need investment and regeneration as well.
“The town hall is a little bit out of the way, and it’s something people tend to walk past on their way from the train station.
“One of the things we wanted to do is bring tourists into the area, so that people arrive in the area by train then make their way into town - rather than park at Tesco.”
It neighbours the more than 100-year-old Penistone Paramount and plans will see the two buildings - both owned by the local authority - become more closely linked through a shared access.
Coun Kitching added the building was ‘under-used’ and the aim was to encourage more public use, while the cinema screen would allow the Paramount to show more up-to-date films by meeting studios’ requirements on screening runs.
The 475 square metre town hall has office spaces and a council chamber, while the first floor is used as the local Masonic lodge.
“The building has been plagued with threats of closure throughout its use,” said a planning statement.
If plans are approved, the chamber will become a ‘multi-functional’ area, while there will also be a dedicated exhibitions space, with internal lifts providing improved access.
“As an asset of considerable interest to the community the under usage of the building was raised in our initial consultation regarding Principal Towns and a desire raised to see the building used as a flexible, functioning community asset,” added the statement.
“However, the building would not be a feasible asset as currently there are a number of issues with the state of the building and issues with accessibility, the aim of this project is to undertake necessary repairs and alter the building to create a flexible useable community space.
“Penistone Paramount is attached to the town hall building and is successfully leased by the town council which covers all repairs and maintenance of the building.
“It is proposed that once works are complete the building will be transferred or leased to the town council removing all future cost liabilities from Barnsley Council.
“It is envisaged that in addition to additional performances from the Paramount a variety of cultural events and exhibitions will be delivered from the building.”
The transformation is deemed the ‘main project’ for Penistone’s share of the next phase of Barnsley’s Principal Towns scheme, which states projects are expected to be implemented by March next year.