Stoke's Fenton Town Hall protesters vow to occupy past Christmas


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Protesters campaigning against the sell-off of the Fenton Town Hall in Stoke-on-Trent have vowed to occupy the historic building over Christmas and beyond.

This comes after the Government failed to guarantee them time to draw up a business plan that would see it returned it to the community. It is believed several bids from the private sector have been tabled

Local campaigners this week met Shailesh Vara, the Minister for Courts and Legal Aid, Rob Flello, Labour MP for Stoke-on-Trent, and the Victorian Society over the future of the building. Yet the meeting ended in deadlock.

The 30 protesters refused to leave as they “had not received assurances they would have four months to prepare a business plan for community use of the Town Hall before a decision was made about its future”, according to one observer at the meeting.

The Government pledged to place a restrictive covenant on the building to protect it should a sale go through, but campaigners feared that would not guarantee the building’s preservation, or public access.

It emerged that the Government was not opposed to the building going to the community but would not guarantee a time period for a business plan to be drawn up.

The Victorian Society is not directly supporting the occupation of the Town Hall, or its plan, but a spokesman said whatever happens to the building “its former council chamber and First World War memorial should remain intact and accessible to the public”.

Fenton Town Hall was built by the Baker family in 1888 and designed by Robert George Scrivener. It became a magistrates’ court which closed in December 2012.