The Twentieth Century Society criticises plans for Trafford Town Hall's council chamber

Messenger Newspapers: Controversy over council chamber plans Controversy over council chamber plans

A CONSERVATION group has hit out at plans to remove the historic furniture from Trafford's council chamber and replace it with modern seating.

A planning application has been submitted for listed building consent to carry out the work as part of a £26m development of the grade II listed Trafford Town Hall, which is currently taking place.

A report that supports the application says the cramped layout of the chamber is not suitable for council business and a "high quality contemporary furniture installation" will "breathe new life into the space."

But conservation group the Twentieth Century Society said that, after an initial view of the plan, it was "deeply concerned" at the impact this would have on the historic building.

The Twentieth Century Society submitted the application that led to the town hall being listed in 2007, amid fears that it could be demolished.

The report with the planning application, though, said the confined conditions mean the benches are uncomfortable, it is difficult to move around and disabled access standards are not met.

The chamber's wooden furniture was made in 1933, when the town hall was built, by a leading firm called Waring and Gillow.

An extra row of seats was added in 1974 to increase the capacity after council reorganisation, and this addition has contributed to many of the problems.

The report pointed out the original furniture has 'medium-high' significance. But its heritage value has been diminished by the 1974 reorganisation of the chamber.

A spokeswoman for the Twentieth Century Society said: "This is an extreme approach and we would wish to see some balance between retaining what is important in the building and the requirements for the use of the building in 2012.

"We will be reviewing this more closely before making our final comments, but most probably we will be objecting."

But a council spokesman insisted they were working hard to preserve the heritage of the building.

" Our plans reflect this and seek to protect the listed features of the building. We have committed to keeping the original council chamber in the town hall and continuing to use it as the key seat of democracy in Trafford.

"The proposals we have put forward for the chamber have been developed following intense investigation of a number of options, and we believe these proposals are the only practical solution for ensuring the council chamber can continue to be used for the purpose it was intended.

"The chamber has been altered since it was built in 1933 with furniture added as the size of the council grew.

"This, unfortunately, has contributed to the current difficulties in the chamber's use, including suitable access for the disabled.

"These proposals will give us an opportunity to restore parts of the chamber back to its original state, including the impressive dome roof, therefore further protecting its historical heritage.

"We also plan, where practical, to re-use some of the chamber furniture in other parts of the building meaning the original furniture will still be on display to the public."

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