A public campaign has been launched in a bid to save Portstewart Town Hall which has now fallen into a state of disrepair.
The campaign, advertised on the Portstewart Conservation Society social media pages, calls for Portstewart Town Hall to be saved as a ‘community space’.
Describing the building as a ‘public asset at the heart of the town’ the campaign wants to see the building ‘ready to be reimagined, regenerated and reopened as a hub serving the economic, societal and cultural needs of the Causeway Coast and Glens and beyond’.
Calling for local residents and visitors alike to get involved and help ‘get our community space back, get our public toilets reopened and get our library back’, the campaign is encouraging as many people as possible to write a letter to their councillors, MLAs and the council’s Chief Executive.
Portstewart Conversation Society have provided a templated letter for anyone wishing to write to officials which states: ‘It is my understanding that Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council (CCGBC) have not fulfilled their duties as public servants, namely, to consult with the local community on the fate and future of Portstewart Town Hall.
‘With the sudden closure and subsequent attempt to transfer ownership of the Town Hall from public to private ownership, Portstewart’s popular community resource, meeting space and last remaining civic asset has been taken away from the community and region without public consultation.’
Portstewart Town Hall which opened in 1935 and was registered as a listed building in 1992, has now fallen into a state of disrepair. In 2019 it was deemed unsafe by structural engineers and elected members decided against paying out the estimated £0.75m for repairs.
Earlier this year the ownership of the historic building had not been confirmed. It was understood that the Montague Estate had issued the council with a ‘Notice to Quit’ claiming they own the landmark building.
A lease was issued in the 1930s for 30 years, which was then extended from 1960 to 1990, however, it is believed that there are no documents in either Land & Property or Land Registry to prove the building belongs to either the Montague family nor the council.
In April the Northern Ireland Audit Office were unable to sign off on Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council’s accounts from the 2019/20 financial year due to issues over ownership of several council buildings including Portstewart Town Hall.
Councillors were informed by Director of Corporate Services, Moira Quinn that the matter of ownership of the 86-year-old landmark building was ‘currently being considered and progressed through council’.
Independent Councillor Angela Mulholland, a resident of the town has spoken out in the past about being ‘continually lobbied by the people of Portstewart about the matter’.
She said: “Retaining the town hall could create a centre worthy of the whole Causeway Coast and Glens area as a flagship.
“The town hall was the most utilised/booked venue in the whole of the area, surely that in itself carries some clout. It is the only shared space we as a community have and it is vital that it is saved for the whole community.”
Portstewart Community Association are also behind the campaign and plan to carry out leaflet drops in local neighbourhoods.