Thousand to be spent on historic hall

MORE than £90,000 will be spent on the restoration of the Shire Hall in Woodbridge, one of Suffolk's most famous landmarks.Woodbridge Town Council has decided to apply to the Department of Transport and Local Regions for a loan of £50,000 from the Public Works Loan Board to be repaid over 10 years.

MORE than £90,000 will be spent on the restoration of the Shire Hall in Woodbridge, one of Suffolk's most famous landmarks.

Woodbridge Town Council has decided to apply to the Department of Transport and Local Regions for a loan of £50,000 from the Public Works Loan Board to be repaid over 10 years.

This has money available each year for towns and parishes to apply for and the fixed rate of interest is almost 5 per cent, which is 2% lower than a bank loan.

The town council has been liaising with the Suffolk Horse Society, who have a museum on the upper floor of the Shire Hall, to help with the costs.

Chris Walker, town council clerk, said the Society would be responsible for repairs to the stonework, stairs and half of the painting costs. This could come to about £15,000 and the Society could try for Lottery funding.

The Grade I listed building, built in 1575, is in a poor state of repair but the town council has been unable to persuade major grant funding bodies to help with the £92,532 costs.

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The council was considering a public referendum in the town to ask for residents' views on how to pay for the work but the Suffolk Association for Local Councils has confirmed the town council does not require a mandate.

The council wants to start work in April and have the repairs finished in time for the wedding season. But Mrs Walker said the council was not guaranteed to obtain a loan from the £13m available for the country this year and could have to wait until next year to make another application.

"The Shire Hall is looking pretty jaded but as there has not been any work done on the exterior for a couple of hundred years, it is bearing up well considering the traffic going round it every day," she said.

The council has set aside £14,000 in this year's budget towards the costs. The total cost to the council will be greater than that. A survey has revealed that the roof leaks, timbers are rotten, gutters need replacing and the stonework is crumbling. A new roof is required.

The Shire Hall was built by Thomas Seckford, Woodbridge's most famous benefactor, and it was bought by the town council in 1987. Previous uses included an open corn market and a court.