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