Iconic St Ives Guildhall handover from Cornwall Council to St Ives Town Council finally taking place
IT IS A building at the centre of its community with a huge place in the hearts of the people of St Ives.
It is a place to come for meetings and information, for music and entertainment, for ceremony and socialising, for community initiatives and for protests.
And on Monday it will come back under local control, having been previously owned by Cornwall Council and Penwith District.
The Guildhall handover was suggested in 2010 when County Hall started to look for savings as it faced a huge budget deficit.
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Protracted negotiations between St Ives Town Council and the unitary authority about the financial details of the handover have been blamed for the delay, but now all that is left is the finalising of the leases: that, and a programme of structural changes to the building.
As the countdown to handover quickens, the Guildhall – currently partly shrouded to protect the passing public from dust and debris – is still rattling to the sound of drills.
Cornwall Council is keeping a wing of the building on the seaward side of the Guildhall, and as a result a lot of work still has to be done.
Mayor of St Ives Ron Tulley said: "They have to separate the two buildings and the little bit they are having is on the same fire alarm system, the same water and same electrical supply, so there is work still to be done and workmen trailing everywhere as a result."
The annexe Cornwall Council is keeping also contains the ladies' toilets for the entire building, so council workmen are busy constructing new Guildhall loos.
A disabled ramp to give access to the council building has been completed but handrails around it are still on order.
Mr Tulley said: "It is chaos at the moment and the work may run over, but what matters is that we are on course for the leases to be signed by both parties on April 1."
Then St Ives will no longer be one of just two Cornish towns that don't control their own town halls (the other is Penzance).
With revenues from ticket sales increasing year on year for the Guildhall as a venue, the move should be a profitable one as well as a welcome victory for local people.
Mr Tulley said: "It's going to be a very good thing for the town and we hope bookings will continue to rise."
The Guildhall is home to St Ives Town Council, the town's Visitor Information Centre and the 500-capacity venue used for shows, including all the headline gigs of the September Festival.
Concerns over whether the festival could continue to book major artists 12 months ahead when the future of the venue was unclear were among the reasons why the town council wanted to take it on.