OPEN for business signs could be hanging outside Bognor Regis Town Hall.
The town’s civic building is being considered for hiring out.
Arun District Council has agreed to start a review which might mean it being offered to commercial concerns.
If the idea is agreed by councillors, it will mark the first major change in the town hall’s functions since it was built in 1929.
Its future was considered in a debate in last week’s meeting of the full council about the council’s possible next five-year strategy.
This agreed a range of matters should be considered. Considering new uses of the town hall was among them.
An Arun spokesman said this could reduce the building’s running costs which came out of residents’ council tax. “A possible outcome of any review could be to rent it out commercially in order to make maximum use of the building.
“If this option is eventually agreed, the new rental revenue stream will help the local authority to minimise future increases to council tax bills and to offset significant reductions in government funding of local authorities that have been announced by the chancellor of the exchequer over the next four years.”
The spokesman said work on the review had yet to start but ‘there is no current thinking of selling it outright and leasing it back’.
News of the potential change of use of the town hall, a Grade II listed building at the Clarence Road/Belmont Street junction, has alarmed Bognor Regis Civic Society.
Deputy chairman Hugh Coster said a previous bid by Arun to seek alternative uses prompted massive disquiet among the town’s residents.
“That is likely to be the case this time as well. People are already unhappy at the withdrawal of services, such as paying council tax and rents, and they will not want to see further services taken away,” he said.
“The town hall is very much a symbol of the town. It has been at the centre of the town’s activities for so many years,” he said. “To lose that, would be to take the heart out of the town.”
District councillor Paul Wells (LD, Hotham) said: “The town hall is meant to be the hub of democracy in Bognor.
“Any new uses have to be fitting for what the building stands for and for the area.”
The town hall’s current occupiers had to be assured of alternative accommodation if any new tenant wanted to take over their space.
“It’s got to be made sure they are not left without a home,” he said. But he pointed out the review was at its earliest stage and that councillors had yet to be consulted about potential alternative uses.
Arun has some officers in the town hall and a busy front office dealing with residents’ queries. Space is rented out to the town council and at least two charities.