Earlestown Town Hall may once again host key council meetings as part of plans to bring it back into public use.
St Helens Council will turn to the public next month to draw ideas that will enable a sustainable future for Earlestown Town Hall, which has been closed since 2008.
Linking in with the wider plans, the council has also submitted a planning application to demolish an extension to the main building built in the 1960s.
Council leader David Baines said this planned work and the consultation is just the first step in bringing the historic building into public use.
The Labour leader also said he is “determined” to have the building used once again for local government purposes, much like it was for many years up until the early 2000s.
Coun Baines said: “Labour are 100 per cent committed to bringing Earlestown Town Hall – and the Gamble in St Helens town centre – back into full public use.
“The demolition work to some outbuildings and the upcoming public events in Earlestown are just the first stage of this process.
“I’m determined that among other things we’ll have full council and cabinet meetings in Earlestown Town Hall, helping to give the historic building and this part of our borough the recognition and respect it deserves.”
A public consultation on the future of Earlestown Town Hall and the Gamble Building was due to take place late last year.
The council has decided to run two separate consultations and for now, is focusing on Earlestown.
Constructed in 1892-93, Earlestown Town Hall was originally used as a public hall because at the time the seat of local government in the area was at nearby Newton Town Hall.
Soon after, it became known as Earlestown Town Hall as the offices at Newton-in-Makerfield – later renamed Newton-le-Willows – had been outgrown.
The building closed in 2008, a decision taken by the Liberal Democrats after they seized control of the council two years prior as part of a coalition agreement with the Conservatives.
Newton Labour councillor Seve Gomez-Aspron, who has long campaigned for the building to be brought back into use, called the original decision “short-sighted”.
“Earlestown Town Hall was closed in 2008 when the Lib Dems ran the council,” Coun Gomez-Aspron said.
“It was short-sighted and disrespectful to Newton-le-Willows to do this, and once the rent paying tenants had been evicted, it was hard to make the business case stack up.
“Fast forward 12 years and we have a building that is sound structurally but needs a lot of work to bring it up to a usable standard.”
Coun Gomez-Aspron added: “I hope the public of Newton-le-Willows grab the opportunity with both hands and attend the upcoming consultation events to set a clear path forward.
“It’s no quick fix. But satisfying to see something progress that I’ve pushed for over the last eight years.”
Coun David Smith, Lib Dem councillor for Newton, said he will await the outcome of the public consultation before commenting on the matter.
As part of the consultation, a series of events will be held by social enterprise PLACED on behalf of St Helens Council.
On February 7, between 11am to 2pm, a drop-in event will be held at The Nine Arches Wetherspoons, Lord Street, Earlestown.
Two design workshops will be held at Newton-le-Willows Boys and Girls Club, Haydock Street, on Tuesday, February 11 at 1pm to 3pm and 6pm to 8pm.
Those who want to attend one of the workshops will need to stay for the full two hours. To book a place email firstname.lastname@example.org
In addition, a pop-up event feeding back community ideas to date will be held on March 7 at a time and location to be confirmed.
Coun Kate Groucutt, cabinet member for corporate services, estates and communication, said “creative and innovative solutions” are needed.
“Getting Earlestown Town Hall open again will require extensive internal and external works and we’re keen to explore all possible uses and sources of support and funding,” Coun Groucutt said.
“We need creative and innovative solutions, and the backing of the community, to ensure the town hall is a thriving venue for future generations.
“Our public engagement begins on Friday, February 7 with the first in a series of community events and I’d encourage residents across Newton-le-Willows and St Helens to get involved directly and help to shape the future of Earlestown Town Hall.”
Residents can also share their views on the future of Earlestown Town Hall by emailing earlestownTH@sthelens.gov.uk