Wall damage dispute could cause Henderson Hall plans to 'grind to a halt'

Martin Brooks, Abbots Langley parish councillor, says the hall needs investment

Martin Brooks, Abbots Langley parish councillor, says the hall needs investment

First published in News Watford Observer: Photograph of the Author by , Reporter

A dispute over who will pay for damage to a wall could cause plans to turn an Abbots Langley hall into a community hub to "grind to a halt."

Proposals drawn up by the Henderson Hub Company aim to change the Henderson Memorial Hall into an art and social centre in the High Street and the group hopes to agree a lease with the current trustees "in the next two or three months".

But the main stumbling block for the negotiations are over who will pay for the structural damage to the hall, which is more than 100 years old.

Simon Ash, project manager of the Henderson Hub said: "We cannot take on the responsibility [for the hall] unless we raise extra funds to pay for the repairs.

"As with any lease agreement, you don’t expect to take it on with any structural deficiencies. It is the main problem at the moment."

Mr Ash added that Abbots Langley Parish Council could play a role in helping raise the funds, whether that was through council grants, or helping the current trustees raise money for the repairs.

Rev Jo Spreadbury, chair of trustees at Henderson Hall, said: "We are currently discussing bringing other elements of the hall maintenance up to spec before agreeing the terms of the lease with the Hub Company. 

"So the costs of whatever refurbishment is agreed are not yet known or how the responsibilities will be shared between the parties involved, which include Abbots Langley Parish Council which supports the hall at present from its annual budget.

"The trustees are confident that the lease can be agreed."

If a lease is agreed, the Hub Company would be in charge of developing and running the hall and they would turn it into an art centre and meeting place open throughout the day. 

Theatrical groups and other community groups will then be able to rent the hall for their productions in the evenings. 

Roger Gotts, chairman of the Henderson Hub Company said: "The company would be responsible for the management and development of the hall. That is the idea. The ownership would rest with the trustees but the running of the hall would be with the Henderson Hub.

"In the next two or three months, hopefully, we can get a lease in place then start getting on with the work."

If the new lease is agreed and the project gets the go-ahead, it will be phased in in four parts. 

According to the Henderson Hub website, phase one will see the kitchen, lobby and toilets refurblished to "create a social, internet enable space including seating area and display space for artists".

Phase two would see film equipment installed, meaning that films will be shown regularly in the community. 

A flexible seating system will then be installed as part of the third phase and finally, the stage will be refitted, with new light rigging and a drapery set to be installed while the layout will be completely changed. 

Tim Perkins, clerk to Abbots Langley Parish Council said: "The Parish Council currently grants funds the Henderson Hall trustees £40,000 a year to support the cost of running and maintaining the hall, as it has done for many years. As we start work on the budget for next financial year Councillors will again have to consider the level of grant to the trustees, alongside all the other competing demands for funding. 

Councillors would be delighted if the Henderson Hub Project Team and the hall's trustees were able to come to an agreement that ensured the future success of the hall, but any agreement will have to be in the context of the significant maintenance and ongoing support costs of a building that is in excess of one hundred years old."

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