Drill Hall future in the balance

By Mark Elson in Local People

THE future ownership of a community arts centre venue will be decided at an extraordinary meeting of councillors next week.

Allegations of cronyism and elitism were made at a public meeting called to discuss a £1.1m Lottery bid to extend and upgrade Chepstow’s Drill Hall last month.

And the row continued at last Wednesday’s (July 26) meeting of Chepstow Town Council, when a special meeting was called for next week to discuss the venue’s ownership.

The Drill Hall has been leased by the town council from Monmouthshire County Council for the last nine years, and is administered by a group of trustees.

The board came under fire at the Sunday, July 23, public meeting amid concerns over an alleged lack of transparency, consultation, and a “high brow” arts agenda.

Town councillors will vote next Wednesday, August 9, on five options for the venue’s future, including relinquishing the lease.

A Big Lottery funding application is being prepared by the trustees before the September 26 deadline, and questions over the future ownership have to be resolved beforehand.

Cllr Ned Heywood MBE, chairman of the Drill Hall board of trustees, told last week’s town council meeting that the set-up would be ‘different’ if the Lottery application was successful with more facilities for young people.

But there was criticism that trustees had held talks with the county council about the venue without notifying the town council.

Next week’s extraordinary meeting is set to start at 7pm at the Palmer Community Centre in Chepstow, subject to the venue’s availability.

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