Thursday, 18 February 2010


[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="500" caption="Stornoway Town Hall before the changes"]Stornoway Town Hall before the changes[/caption]

[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="500" caption="Stornoway Town Hall after the changes"]Stornoway Town Hall after the changes[/caption]

It was announced last night that the proposed changes to the Town Hall interior, with certain modifications, were recommended for approval by Comhairle nan Eilean Siar. This ratification is likely to happen tonight, Thursday 18th February. A campaign has been active on Facebook and on the island against these changes, with protesters vowing to take the fight all the way to the Scottish Government (who have the final say on alterations to a listed building) if not the European Courts.

I have previously stated that I am not opposed to the plans for changing the interior of the Town Hall, which are in fact unavoidable due to legislation pertaining to disabled access. However, everybody is entitled to their opinion.

What has stuck in my craw is the lack of opposition to two far more visible changes to the Stornoway townscape in recent years. The Maritime Building on Pier no 1 was pulled down in 2007, without anybody uttering a squeak. The old Shoeshop on Cromwell Street, the oldest house in Stornoway, was demolished in 2009. Again, without so much as a beep from anyone.

Comhairle nan Eilean Siar stands accused of mismanaging the consultation process regarding the Town Hall plans, and I am just wondering why nobody was voicing any opposition to the demolition of the two aforementioned buildings. No, they were not the bonniest in town, and the Maritime Building had been empty for a while. However, since the 1930s, people have left the island, many never to return, through the Maritime Building. Where were all the expat Lewismen and -women who are now writing whining letters to Hebrides News, from afar as northern England, imploring the Council not to vandalise the Town Hall? Why were they not sharpening their quills to oppose these very visible changes to the townscape of Stornoway?

Because, let's face it, the interior changes to the Town Hall are INVISIBLE from the outside. And there are far more people seeing the exterior of the Town Hall, pier number 1 and Cromwell Street, than there will be people seeing the inside of the Town Hall.

A pointless rant? No. I hope the Council take this opportunity to review their consultation procedures, to make planning applications like this more visible to the general public.


  1. As is the case with the Town Hall use for ALL public buildings change and come and go and in that context I too accept that the Comhairle must fins a sustainable use for the Town Hall- and one Panto a year is not that use.
    Maritime Buildings was Grade B Listed and its demolition approved by Historic Scotland. No one ever left Lewis from the Maritime Buildings- passengers coming and going in "the old days" had the sky as a canopy when arriving at or leaving Lewis. I am old enough to remember the Maritime Buildings as a hub of activities with the Glasgow Boat Store and Mailboat store.
    With the decline in coastal shipping the Maritime Buildings fell into decline and although Macbraynes had a ticket office in it latterly the "waiting room" could not hold a dozen people. When Cal Mac moved to the new ferry terminal Maritime Buildings became redundant. There are far better examples of "Art Deco" 1930s buildings survive- British Legion and Newhall's Mill (Euroclean) for example.
    The Old Shoeshop on Cromwell St was not the oldest house in Stornoway - but the Smith Boys' mothers house 'Ardanmhor' adjacent to the shoeshop was- Its day too was gone. If you carry your thesis to the ultimate we should all still be in the Tigh Dubh.

  2. "Gad a Ha", I take note of your observations regarding the Maritime Building and Ardanmhor. I would point out that my post is heavily laced with sarcasm over the fuss made over the refurbishment of the Town Hall when none was made over other buildings that had outlived their useful incarnation and which were pulled down. The Town Hall in its present form has also outlived its useful life - I do NOT advocate the removal of the Town Hall, on the contrary. I applaud the efforts made to pull this building back into public use. However, if I may, I will extrapolate your final remarks to the point that the opponents of Town Hall refurbishment could be argued to be hankering back to the good ole days in the Tigh Dubh.

  3. It strikes me that some of the Town Hall protesters must have got the wrong end of the stick and think it is to be demolished completely, which would be a shame as it's a good-looking building. Why otherwise should they protest about changes to the interior? It is highly unlikely that any of these people will ever darken its doors again.
    A local school here was demolished a couple of years ago, to a howl of protest. The building was of no merit whatsoever, but people seemed to think it should be preserved simply because "they used to go there" and had "happy memories". Sigh.