05:55PM, Wednesday 20 October 2021
Melanie Hill, the creator of the petition, outside the town hall
A petition to ‘save our town hall’ is set to be debated by councillors – despite the borough leader branding the campaign ‘misleading and desperate’.
Set up by resident Melanie Hill, the petition passed the required 1,500 signatures on Wednesday afternoon for it to be debated by councillors.
The petition was created in response to a report heard at cabinet earlier this year which detailed a potential relocation of council operations away from Maidenhead Town Hall.
In the report, details were provided on the £370,150 required for essential maintenance over the next five years, while its energy performance was considered ‘only just acceptable’.
The news led to fears the town hall could be sold off to developers, but council leader Andrew Johnson said at the time the borough is ‘exploring all potential options’ and that his ‘very strong preference’ was for the building to be retained.
Maidenhead Town Hall famously featured in the Carry On franchise, and, more recently, has been used to provide vaccinations against coronavirus to residents across the Royal Borough.
Furthermore, the Desborough Theatre has been used as a site for dance performances and theatre shows, something which Ms Hill, who is a performer in her spare time, said was a key reason for the creation of her petition.
“It’s such a historic, beautiful building that was obviously used in the ‘Carry On’ films, and it’s quite a nice backdrop for events in the town.
“There’s not many jewels in Maidenhead, are there? The town hall for me is a bit of a jewel; it’s got a beautiful council chamber, the mayor’s got a beautiful room in there, and you’ve got the Desborough Theatre.
“As a performer, and someone who’s watched, and been in, a lot of shows there, it just offers something that we can’t necessarily have elsewhere.”
Melanie said she had contacted ‘a lot of dance schools’ but had found those in Slough had been unable to sign as they were not residents of the Royal Borough.
“It’s central to Maidenhead, it’s central to our community, particularly the arts community, but there’s probably other people who regularly use it that I haven’t even tapped into,” she said.
She added: “I want it to remain in the public domain because if the building remains and became a hotel or something, they’re not going to retain the theatre, the registry office or the council chamber, and these to me are really good spaces and perfect for what they’re used for.”
In a social media post on Tuesday, Cllr Johnson said the borough was seeking to reduce emissions from public sector buildings by 75 per cent.
“However, that in no way should be read as we are selling off, or demolishing, our town hall, despite the misleading and desperate campaign being run by some,” said Cllr Johnson.
“There are no plans for either demolition or a fire sale, as some would like you to believe. I am opposed to the demolition of the building.”
There will be displays at Windsor Racecourse and Legoland, local fireworks in Burnham and Twyford and smaller displays at schools in the Royal Borough.