D-day on Armstrong Hall complex delayed

October 27 2017

A DECISION on the future of Thornbury’s Armstrong Hall complex has been put back to the new year as controversy continues to surround options for the town’s community facilities.

A DECISION on the future of Thornbury’s Armstrong Hall complex has been put back to the new year as controversy continues to surround options for the town’s community facilities.

Calls for a public meeting to debate the issue have also been successful, with town council leaders pledging to hold such an event.

The Armstrong Hall in Chapel Street has provided Thornbury’s main performance space for many years but it is in need of significant refurbishment to allow its continued long-term use.

Two options were put forward to resolve the problem after Thornbury Town Council and South Gloucestershire Council, along with trustees of the Turnberries community building in Bath Road, discussed how best to tackle the issue.

One option is to refurbish and extend the Armstrong Hall to provide changing rooms and extra multi-purpose meeting space.

The second proposal involves building a large hall extension onto Turnberries to create a performance area with stage, changing rooms and extra community meeting space. 

At the same time South Gloucestershire Council is investigating moving the library from its current location into space vacated by a day centre at Turnberries.

Option two would also involve selling the Armstrong Hall site for redevelopment and using the proceeds to part-fund the Turnberries’ extension.

A number of residents and members of various user groups said they feared option two was a “done deal”, leading to the call for a public meeting.

A consultation exercise recently held into the proposals attracted hundreds of responses and the town council agreed at a recent meeting to postpone an October decision on the plans.

The council said: “This will allow us more time to fully consider the results of the consultation and acquire further information on funding, designs and governance issues which have been raised and to better inform the decision making process.

 “The results of the consultation will be made publicly available in due course and we are committed to holding the requested town meeting at an appropriate time prior to any decision being made.

“South Gloucestershire Council will be making its decision on the location of the library separately, most likely in November.”

Concerns voiced in the consultation include the amount of space available if the Turnberries option was agreed, with objections about a lack of proper stage, insufficient provision for musicians, reduced seating capacity, unsuitable access for large props and scenery, the position of dressing rooms and noise from having too many activities in one building at the same time.

Lyn Kidd, principal of Northavon School of Drama, said: “Thornbury deserves a decent performance space, not only to accommodate the numerous amateur groups and its arts festival but also to encourage professional bookings for comedy, ballet, opera, plays and cinema.

“The overall plot size of the Armstrong Hall Complex offers much more flexibility and opportunity than the Turnberries option. Thornbury and its inhabitants deserve better than to be fobbed off with squeezing everything into too small and inadequate a space.”