A FORMER mayor says one of the country’s oldest operating council chambers is no longer fit for purpose.

An overhaul of Stockton’s Grade II listed town hall was unveiled in 2020 just before the pandemic hit.

And retiring the town hall’s chamber from council business was on the table.

Now council officials have told councillors they are reviewing options for the 287-year-old town hall – with the option of creating a new chamber as part of the forthcoming waterfront campus on the river.  

Cllr Eileen Johnson told Monday’s people select committee it was time for a change. 

The former mayor said: “Some of us have been to Redcar for meetings and they have a flexible council chamber which they can move around. 

“We all love the town hall but I think it would need an enormous amount of money spending on it. 

“And then, I don’t think it would be possible to use it because it’s not sufficiently modern. 

“For a start, there’s no ventilation which is one of the reasons we haven’t been able to use it during the pandemic. 

“The windows are all sealed shut and even if we could open them we’d have all the noise from the traffic.”

The Labour member suggested the town hall could become a heritage site linked to Preston Hall with tours and the mayor’s parlour used to host guests and events. 

She also believed the town hall’s committee rooms could still be used – or could be hired out for commercial use. 

The landmark hall has served as the administrative centre of Stockton for decades with a raft of alterations, repairs and extensions in the past 200 years.

Preservation work on its timber and repairs to the clock tower were carried out in 2011 as part of a £20m town centre programme. 

Development manager Antony Phillips told the committee the town hall was key for the borough’s heritage. 

He added: “It’s not functioning as it once did – we’re commissioning a feasibility study on the project in spring.”

The council is aiming to close ten of its wider office buildings across the borough and move into two sites – Dunedin House, in Thornaby, and a building in Billingham. 

It bought Dunedin House last year with £8m set aside for its purchase and fit out. 

The committee was told work on measuring up the work spaces required would take place over the next three to six months.