Is £5.6m on hall a sensible spend?
MILLIONS of pounds of taxpayers' money will need to be pumped into a listed Penzance building to ensure its survival.
A feasibility study has been looking at using St John's Hall to house Cornwall Council staff and services currently based at St Clare.
Although details of the study have until now been unknown, a Freedom of Information request by The Cornishman has highlighted some of the proposals for the site.
If approved for redevelopment by Cornwall Council it could become home to St Clare staff, a full one stop shop service and a registrars' service.
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It will also house an updated main public hall alongside Alverne Hall, two committee rooms and a number of smaller meeting spaces.
But with a £5.6 million price tag, questions are being raised about whether this would be money well spent at a time when County Hall faces drastic spending cuts.
Keith Shilson, spokesman for campaign group Penwith Anti-Cuts Alliance, said: "I think most people would be shocked that Cornwall Council thinks it is acceptable to spend that amount of money at a time when ordinary people are being asked to tighten their belts and seeing cuts to all manner of services."
Plans from the feasibility study, also released on request from The Cornishman, show that the building could be converted to include a ground-level entrance as well as lifts to each of the floors.
Visitors to the grade two listed building would be welcomed in at an 'entrance terrace' with council office space in the east wing and extra meeting rooms in the west, which is currently home to the Royal Geological Society of Cornwall. The society's base at the Alverton Road building has been boarded up for years and many of the group's collections moved elsewhere.
The Cornishman has also been told that cash troubles have left the concrete plasterwork, woodwork and flooring all in need of attention.
"St John's Hall is an historic building that should be preserved," said Neil Plummer, president of the society.
Under the plans, the organisation would still have a presence in the building with a store room and display area.
Mr Plummer, who is also a Cornwall councillor, said he believed any investment in the town should be celebrated.
Fellow Cornwall councillor Mario Fonk raised concerns about the development bill but said he hoped money from the sale of St Clare would be kept and used in Penzance.
"This building belongs to the people of Penzance and we want to make sure that the future is safe and this is one way of doing that but maybe not at such a cost."
Cornwall Council's property services department said it was working with potential partners to find funding.