“NOW, it’s over to you. Carry on councillors.”

No, that was not from the iconic British comedy film series but from a passionate speech from petitioner Melanie Hill who urged councillors not to sell off the beloved Maidenhead Town Hall.

Last year, cabinet councillors commissioned a review into modernising the 1962 building, which featured in Carry on Doctor, that is becoming ‘more costly to maintain’ to meet the council’s climate change targets.

To completely refurbish it and improve its energy performance, which was deemed ‘only just acceptable,’ it could cost £13.8m.

But fears were triggered that the Conservative group were eyeing to sell off the town hall in St Ives Road and move into another building. Melanie Hill, who is part of an acting troupe that uses the adjacent Desborough Theatre, set up a petition that garnered over 1,580 signatures.

Speaking at a full council meeting on Tuesday, January 25, Mrs Hill said the town hall is worth keeping as it is the “heart of the community” and the Desborough Theatre is a great community asset for the locals to hold events, plays, and the annual panto.

“Oh yes, it is”, she said, adding: “To sell or not to sell. Is that the question? Is this a digger I see before me? A flat. A flat. My town hall for a flat?”

“For the community wellbeing, the heart of the Maidenhead should surely be made central and in this iconic building,” she added.

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“If music is to be the food of love play on. Carry on, on the stage, in the theatre, outside by the cenotaph. Now, it’s over to you. Carry on councillors.”

Council leader Andrew Johnson (Con: Hurley & Walthams) insisted it was made “crystal clear” that the council has “no plans” to sell off or demolish the town hall, and any suggestion they are is “scaremongering” and “politicisation”.

He said before committing to modernise the town hall and invest millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money, the council is looking at “all options” and a report will come back to all members on the recommendations on what to do with the council’s HQ.

Cllr Johnson said: “This is all about exploring options to the investment in this building going forward so we can put a clear case to taxpayers, who will ultimately be paying the bill for all of this, and demonstrates it does deliver good value for money whilst at the same time meeting all of the corporate responsibilities and obligations that we have to deliver.”

Royal Borough Observer: The Maidenhead town hallThe Maidenhead town hall

He also denied the council is engaging in a “fire sale” and thinking about moving its offices to Slough, slamming it as “the most ludicrous statement” he’s heard in a “long time”.

Tory councillors backed the leader’s point – with Cllr Leo Walters (Con: Bray) saying he would “never want to see town hall fall down.”

Liberal Democrats leader Simon Werner (Pinkneys Green) said it was “déjà vu” as 20 years ago, the then council leader said he had “no plans” to sell off the town hall but documents showed he had the “intention” of parting ways with it.

He said: “I suppose that’s what worries me from what Cllr Johnson says, he says ‘We have no plans’.

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“He keeps saying this, but we have seen from previous administrations and also in this administration that no plans means there are no hard detailed plans such as a planning application – but they got the intention to knock it down or sell it off.

“The problem is that it is invisible to us.”

Councillors were asked to allow officers to continue to investigate the town hall and report back to members when it is appropriate for a decision.

St Mary’s councillor Gurch Singh (Lib Dem) attempted to amend the motion to require the chief executive to undertake another review to find ways to retain the town hall as a civic building but was defeated.

The ruling Tories passed through the original motion where the report will come to members on the town hall’s future at the appropriate time.