I READ with sadness (CP, 26-03-21) of the decision to grant planning permission to turn Sandown Town Hall, a listed building, into housing and the comment by Cllr Ward that if this action had not been taken “the building will rot for another decade.”

The question he should answer is “Why has the building been allowed to rot for the last 16 years whilst you have been the local member and your party has been in power for most of that time?”

Any fool knows if a building isn’t properly maintained it will deteriorate. If a listed building in private ownership had been allowed to deteriorate, the local planning authority would rightly have been expected to take enforcement action against the owner.

Why does this not apply when the owner is the council itself?

Read more: What next for Sandown Town Hall?

I was a county councillor from 2013 to 2017 and was keen to see the future of the town hall secured.

Discussions with officers in 2016 indicated it would be acceptable for Sandown Town Council to sell the Broadway site for housing and use the proceeds to restore the town hall to its former glory.

I put this to the town council in September 2016 but was not supported by Cllr Ward, who got his alternative proposal of building a new centre on the Broadway site accepted.

The consequence of that decision was a 74 per cent increase on the parish precept in 2018, giving residents the distinction of paying the highest council tax on the Island and the millstone on future generations of a long-term loan which will probably take longer to pay off than the life of the new Broadway building.

In early 2017 the Town Hall was providing a youth centre operated by CEYP, an external provider, and, ironically it also provided a temporary home for the town council when the old Broadway Centre was closed for demolition.

Indoor bowls and other activities mainly provided for senior citizens had operated there for many years.

In March 2017, the IW Council wanted to close the town hall and evict CEYP and the town council as essential work needed to be carried out.

I was able to get an extension to CEYP’s lease to provide a window for the work to be put in hand.

At the time, estimates of between £10k and £30k were given. Neither the IW Council nor Sandown Town Council were prepared to pay.

On April 30, 2017, at Sandown’s annual town meeting a proposal the town council should find a solution to ensure the future of the town hall was overwhelmingly supported.

However, no action was taken by the town council, the minutes of that meeting mysteriously disappeared and were never presented to the 2018 town meeting.

The town hall finally closed in June 2017.

On May 6, residents will be able to pass judgment on the legacy of Cllr Ward and those town councillors who were subject to an overwhelming vote of no confidence at a public meeting on March 9, 2018.

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