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New Museum and Gallery project moves forward

Plans to transform St Albans Town Hall into a spectacular £7.75 million museum and gallery have been given a major boost.

St Albans City and District Council’s Planning Referrals Committee voted unanimously to back the scheme at a meeting on Monday 16 November.
NMG at night snipped August 2015They have recommended that planning permission for the alterations and change of use is given along with Listed Building consent.
Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Greg Clark, will now consider those recommendations.
He is likely to announce his decision by mid-January with construction work able to start as early as Spring next year if he gives approval.
The scheme has been in development since 2012 in a partnership between the Council, the St Albans Museums and Galleries Trust and the University of Hertfordshire. It is intended to rejuvenate the cultural and artistic life of the City.
Councillor Julian Daly, Leader and Portfolio Holder for Planning for St Albans City and District Council, said: “This is a huge step forward.
“It brings the realisation of this ambitious and exciting new project much closer.
“A lot of people have worked very hard on trying to create a new museum and gallery in the very heart of the City. All that effort is now being rewarded.
“The Town Hall is a magnificent building and a focal point of the City, but it has been under-used for years.
“This scheme will bring it back to life and provide the District and region with a fantastic new attraction that will benefit future generations and help the local economy.
“The whole City must now get behind this amazing project and help raise the balance of funds needed, £1.5 million. With your help, we know we can do it.”
The Town Hall, a Grade II* Listed Building, dates from 1831 and is one of the most prominent features of the City’s Conservation Area.
Under the plans recommended by the Committee, the ground floor’s entrance halls will be turned into a reception area and exhibition space to showcase St Albans’ history. There will also be a specialist shop, café and dedicated education area nearby.
The Victorian courtroom will be renovated and will have a number of uses including education and providing additional café seating.
On the first floor, the Assembly Rooms will be refurbished and used for civic and public events including heritage and art exhibitions.
New glazed walkways will be built to connect the front and rear of the first floor. They will also provide views across the City’s roofscape and back into the courtroom.
The basement will be expanded to create a temperature-controlled gallery capable of hosting national and international exhibitions.
The plans were developed by the Council in consultation with Historic England which has supported the project since its inception.
St Albans Civic Society, The Victorian Society, St Albans and Hertfordshire Architectural and Archaeology Society and Hertfordshire Ecology are among local groups that have been consulted.
The Secretary of State’s approval is needed to manage a conflict of interests as the Council is both the applicant and the planning authority.
The project is also dependent on securing funding through the renaissance: St Albans campaign with St Albans Museums and Galleries Trust leading efforts to raise £1.5millon. Several local business have made renaissance: St Albans their charity of the year.
The Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) is to decide shortly on an application for £2.5 million of funding, almost a third of the total cost. They have already given £282,000 to support develop of the scheme to this stage.
For information about sponsorship and donor recognition, please contact Mike Gray, chairman of the St Albans Museums and Galleries Trust, registered charity number 1051868. He can be contacted through the Trust’s website: http://www.stalbansmuseumsandgalleriestrust.org.uk/