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Will town hall revamp be axed?
A PLANNED multi-million pound project to revamp Trowbridge Town Hall has been called into question with the news it will be used for military inquests for the next two years.
Last year the town council increased council tax to raise £375,000 towards a £3m refurbishment scheme for the hall.
Now Wiltshire County Council, which owns it, has decided it will be used for inquests on military personnel whose bodies are flown in to the UK at RAF Lyneham.
Cllr Jeff Osborn, who has publicly opposed the hall refurbishment plan, said: "It puts the whole question of the town council's project, which it is intent on going ahead with, in serious doubt.
"Some inquests take a long time to complete so I think it seriously alters the prospect of the town council taking over the town hall. I think it should be abandoned.
"The whole thing has dragged on for ages. It's always been my opinion that the project is too big for the town council and is taking too much money from the taxpayer."
Cllr Osborn believes the money raised from last year's tax hike should be returned to taxpayers through a reduction in next year's precept.
The town council has submitted an application for a development grant so it can apply for money to continue with the project.
The idea is for the town council to take on the hall from the county council at a nominal fee of £1 and refurbish it.
Cllr Tom James, who supports the plan to take over the Town Hall, said he did not see why using the hall for inquests should alter the refurbishment plans.
He said: "My initial reaction would be we should continue to negotiate because even if it is used for inquests it is not going to be in full time use.
"It is just another thing to include in the revamp of the town hall. If it is only likely to take two years it may take that time to start the work anyway.
"I don't see it as a problem. It's good that it's being used again but I don't see it makes any difference to the town council's negotiations. The money is gathering interest which is a good thing."
The Town Hall was last used as a coroner's court for the inquest on RAF leading aircraftsman Ronald Maddison, who died at the Porton Down base in 1953.
A spokesman from Wiltshire County Council confirmed the hall will be used for military and civilian inquests for about two years.
"It brings back the building into public use and also provides more time to secure a sustainable long term future for the building," he said.