1. ITV Report

Campaigners hoping to gain control of their Town Hall

Campaigners say they could finally be close to gaining control of their Town Hall after it was boarded up 58 years ago by the supermarket chain which owns it. Wiveliscombe's Town Hall dominates the square in the centre of the town and residents want to use it for community events.

They claim the Co-op has not been co-operative.

Built in the prosperous 1840's Wiveliscombe Town Hall has seen a lot of action. It's been Assembly rooms, magistrates have passed sentence here and people have even been married in it. But for 54 years it's been boarded up by its owners, the Co-op.

Campaigners have set up a Trust to take on a lease to get this empty building back in to public use. Credit: ITV Westcountry

Campaigners have set up a Trust and have been in negotiations with the property arm of the Co-op for twelve years to take on a lease to get this empty and rather grand building back in to public use. The co-op claims its good with food the campaigners are too polite to say its bad with people, but claim it's been a painful, protracted and still, so far, fruitless task.

I got really interested in seeing what I could do and thought it would be sorted in a couple of years. That was twelve years ago and I've been working on it really hard ever since. One of the problems is the cCo-op being quite detached. And it's not really been a priority for the Co-op. It sits here, it's not really costing them anything, it's not really of any significance to their trading. It's taken quite a lot to get them to focus on it, so it's not been very high on their agenda.

– John Bone, Wiveliscombe Town Hall Trust
The Town Hall was even used as a cinema during the war years. Credit: ITV Westcountry

The Town Hall was even used as a cinema during the war years. The Trust wants to show films here again and to breathe life back into the heart of the town all the locals call Wivvy.

The ideal would be to just get the space open, to get the windows open again, which are the eyes of the building and to offer it to the community.

– Pauline Homeshaw MBE, Wiveliscombe Town Hall Trust

Now we are right up at the top of the building and this is one part not owned by the Co-op. And that's just through here. The Town clock is owned by the parish council and the Co-op has to allow a man up here to allow them to keep it wound.

The co-op told me this evening they haven't wound up negotiations, they say they're continuing to discuss the finer details of a 125 year lease. 12 years down and hopefully not much longer to wait.

Watch the full report by David Woodland: