First look inside new council chamber

The doors have been opened at the new council chamber, which occupies St Ringan’s Church.

Elected members will be debating from the refurbished premises from Wednesday, when the final full council meeting of the current SIC takes place.

The £200,000 works have included the installation of conference equipment and broadcast technology.

More public space is available, while at the centre of attention is a new chamber table, measuring over nine metres in length, which was made by Paparwark Furniture.

A height-adjustable lectern will provide added comfort and convenience for anyone regardless of their height. It should also prove to be of benefit to wheelchair users.

Attending his last full council next week will be convener Malcolm Bell, who is standing down as a councillor at the end of this term.

He has championed moving council meetings away from the old town hall chamber.

Mr Bell believes moving to St Ringan’s will offer the public greater access to the council decision-making process.

“The town hall chamber has not been fit for purpose, particularly for 21st century democracy,” he said.

“It’s very difficult to gain access to it, just because of the space. It’s also extremely difficult to retrofit the broadcasting equipment that a modern council needs.

“The town hall chamber is not a dedicated chamber. Access for the public is extremely limited. It’s not a particularly welcoming space for a member of the public.”

Mr Bell said the move to St Ringan’s would free up the town hall chamber to be made available for “other aspects of civic life”.

“It will enhance the town hall in that it will be much more readily available for other functions.”

It comes after £1.7 million of work was carried out in recent years to restore the stained glass windows at the town hall, and repair crumbling parts of stonework.

Mr Bell insisted the investment in the town hall was well worthwhile.

“The refurbishment was on the basis of protecting and preserving stained glass which, frankly, is priceless,” he said.

“And as it was a listed building, we had no choice.

“The reason for refurbishing it was not due to its use as a council chamber.”

Adding the council would still be based at the town hall, he said: “Staff will still be based in the town hall, and the town hall will remain the jewel in the crown”.

“But it couldn’t provide us with a chamber that was fit for purpose in a modern democracy.”


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