Town Clerk's Office, Church Lane, Blandford Forum, Dorset, DT11 7AD

Town Hall / Corn Exchange Refurbishment Project

To keep up to date with project progress, please view the updates below. You can also visit the Meetings page where you can scroll down to the agendas and minutes for the Corn Exchange meetings. These meetings are usually held in the Corn Exchange, and the public are welcome to attend, however they will be held in Woodhouse Gardens from April 2024 onwards.


The Town Council has been working on a proposal to restore and reinvigorate the Grade I Listed Town Hall and Corn Exchange building for several years.  A planning application was submitted at the start of 2023, which has now been determined and approved. Fundraising work has been ongoing over the last 12+ months and the works themselves have now been tendered.

Numerous proposals to repair and revive the Corn Exchange have been and gone over the last 40 years and none have successfully come to fruition. In some cases ideas were perhaps over-ambitious and in other cases they did not pay sufficient attention to the historic significance of the building. All the while, the condition of the building has been deteriorating with repairs being deferred with the result that today there are regular instances of major water ingress due to the poor condition of roofs, extensive damp and various other secondary issues. Compounding this, as every year passes, the building and its facilities have become less and less suitable as the community has changed and the market for venues such as the Corn Exchange – which hasn’t fundamentally changed since the 1950s – has moved on. Essential plant and equipment is now well beyond its useful life, and failing, and large important parts of the building are difficult to let and are effectively obsolete.

In 2020-21, the Town Council agreed to take a fresh look at a project to repair and revive the Corn Exchange and confidence, momentum and positivity has slowly been restored. A scheme has been developed focussing on deliverability, not with the aim of fundamentally changing the use of the building but simply making the building do what it has always done but do it better; to become a better multi-purpose community venue. There is now a revived sense of optimism and energy surrounding the project and with the progress towards starting work on site there is real momentum.

The proposals will repair and revive the entire Grade I Listed building including the Shambles, Town Hall, Council Chamber and the Corn Exchange. It will breathe new life into the building through a combination of works that will help to increase the use of the building, generate footfall and vibrancy that will provide an anchor for the town centre, support placemaking and ensure that Blandford’s spectacular heart survives and thrives in the future.

Specifically, the project will benefit the local community by delivering significant improvements to the Grade I Listed building such as:

  • Delivering a comprehensive programme of conservation repairs.
  • Improving the heating, cooling and acoustics in the Corn Exchange which will make the space more usable for community events and activities. This in turn will increase utilisation and improve the financial sustainability of the building.
  • Installing a new lift and stair to the historic first floor Town Hall and Council Chamber spaces, making these rooms fully accessible for the first time in the building’s 300-year history. This will again help to improve utilisation and financial sustainability.
  • Improving the stage and back-stage facilities for arts and cultural users. This will include providing disabled access to the stage and back-stage areas, new green room facilities and restoring the late Victorian proscenium arch.
  • Repairing and reinstating some of the fine original interiors and removing some of the poor quality more modern interventions, helping to make the interior of the building beautiful again and boosting a local sense of civic pride.

We will continue to keep residents updated with progress made on the project.

April 2024 – Town Hall / Corn Exchange Decant and Office Relocation

The Town Council closed the building to the public on 1 April 2024, with the contractors – Hammond Building Contractors – due to start in late April/early May, and staff have been decanting to various locations since.

The offices are being relocated to the Royal British Legion building, also on Church Lane, for the duration of the works. The proximity to the existing office is ideal, it is an accessible building and it will provide two offices for staff to work from. We will continue to be open to the public Monday to Friday between 9:30am to 12:30pm.

The Legion has also kindly agreed to accommodate the Citizens Advice service currently located in the Town Council office, which is fantastic news that we can continue to be located together and residents can continue to access this essential service.

Town Council meetings have moved to Woodhouse Gardens Pavilion, instead of the Corn Exchange, on a Monday evening and the calendar of meetings can be found here.

The Corn Exchange’s Indoor Market and popular Bethell Bridge café have relocated to Woodhouse Gardens on a Thursday. Please continue to support them and help us keep the Indoor Market going.

March 2024 – Loan Application Outcome and Funding Secured

Infogram for the project update

On Monday 11th March 2024, the Town Council was informed that its application for a loan of £1.3 million to the Public Works Loan Board was approved by the Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities. This is the final piece in the jigsaw of providing funds for the renovation of the Town Hall and Corn Exchange.

Other funding sources are summarised below:

External Funding
Charitable Organisation  £           400,000 Confirmed
Community Ownership Fund  £           265,000 Confirmed
Dorset Council retained s.106  £           264,810 Confirmed
Stubhampton Estate  £           100,000 Confirmed
Dorset Council additional s.106  £             40,320 Confirmed
Dorset Capital Leverage Fund  £             25,000 Confirmed
Pilgrim Trust  £             20,000 Confirmed
Other private donations  £               2,000 Confirmed
Internal Funding
BFTC Corn Exchange reserve  £           861,500 Confirmed at 24/01/2024
BFTC Corn Exchange reserve 24/25  £             30,000 Added to precept from 01/04/2024
BFTC additional reserves  £           180,000 Approved 12/02/24
Public Works Loan Board
Maximum loan amount  £        1,300,000 Confirmed
Sub-total income  £        3,488,630
Estimate of outstanding consultancy costs to project completion  £           200,000
Fee contingency  £             50,000
Preferred works contract price  £        3,144,633
Sub-total costs  £        3,394,633
Balance / VE target  £             93,997 Value Engineering completed


February 2024 – Project Expenditure Authority and Loan Application Submitted

Infogram for project update

At the Corn Exchange council meeting held on 26th February 2024, Councillors considered a report and made the following resolutions:

  • The Mayor Making ceremony on Friday 24th May 2024 is held in the Parish Church.
  • The Mayor Making luncheon is held in the Overlord Room at Legion House after the ceremony.
  • The Indoor Market and its café is relocated to Woodhouse Gardens on Thursdays.
  • The Town Museum is invited to view the artefacts (portraits/sculptures) to decide what items they are able, and would like, to display. The remaining items will be offered to other reputable Museums or stately homes in the county or stored securely in the basement of a local business.

At the Town Council meeting held on Monday 12th February 2024, it was PROPOSED by Cllr White, SECONDED by Cllr Lindsay and AGREED unanimously that

The Town Council:

  • Appoints Contractor A, subject to the successful completion of a process of value engineering.
  • Confirms notification of the appointment on the Contracts Finder website.
  • Agrees expenditure authority for the project of £3,461,630 including fees, with the reallocation of the Reserves referred to in Appendix A (Expenditure Authority: General Power of Competence Localism Act 2011 s1-8).
  • Approves the PWLB application for a loan of £1,300,000 being submitted with the following wording:

At the full council meeting of the Blandford Forum Town Council Corn Exchange meeting of Monday 12th February 2024, it was resolved unanimously to seek the approval of the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities to apply for a PWLB loan of £1,300,000 over the borrowing term of 50 years (EIP) for the Grade I Listed Town Hall / Corn Exchange refurbishment project. The annual loan repayments will come to around £100,000 a year. It is not intended to increase the council tax/precept for the purpose of the loan repayments.

The loan application has been submitted to the government department for Parish Borrowing and an outcome is awaited.

January 2024 – Planning and Tenders

Infogram for project update

The outcome of the planning application submitted in January 2023 has now been received and we have Planning and Listed Building Consent for the works. Details of the approvals can be viewed in the following documents:

Decision Notice_PFUL202206707

Decision Notice_PLBC202206710

Tenders have been received from four contractors and are currently being reviewed.

The Town Council will then need to consider the financing of the project and an application for a loan to the Public Works Loan Board.

May 2023 – Public Consultation

The local planning authority, Dorset Council has extended the deadline on determining the planning application for the Corn Exchange from 26th April 2023 to 31st May 2023, which the Town Council has agreed to. Whilst we await the outcome of the planning application, the Town Council is carrying out another public consultation to gauge how residents feel about usage of the building, the condition it is in and financing the project. We would really appreciate you taking the time to complete it: by 10th July 2023 and hard copies are also available from the office.

January 2023 – Planning Application Submitted

The planning application for making changes that will breathe new life into the Corn Exchange has been submitted and is now being assessed by Dorset Council.

The historic community building and home of the Town Council has long been recognised as in need of repairs and updating.  Important parts of the building such as the main Corn Exchange space don’t perform as they should and users are put off by poor access, heating, lighting, acoustics, and a lack of back of house facilities. In addition, the first floor of the building which contains some of the most historically significant and beautiful spaces such as the Town Hall room, does not have equal access which effectively cuts them off from a whole section of the local community.  More recently the building has been subject to vandalism and parts of the roof coverings have started to fail leading to instances of water ingress.

The project, which is the subject of the planning application, will restore and revive the Grade I Listed Building and – in so doing – breathe new life into the historic town centre for generations to come.

Responding to community feedback, the project will provide equal access to the exquisite first floor rooms for the first time in the building’s 300-year history and the project will transform the complex into a warm, functional, flexible community venue. Responding to a recent condition report, the Corn Exchange will be sensitively repaired to reveal the beautiful historic building that lies beneath and restore a sense of pride to the main civic building in Blandford.

The project will re-model the lobby area to provide new WCs including an accessible WC and provide a light, airy stairwell that welcomes people into the building. Environmental improvements are at the heart of the scheme which will incorporate PV cells where it can as well as upgrading insulation and thermal performance throughout.

The scheme hopes to give the Corn Exchange a new lease of life for the next 100 years. You can view, and comment on, the plan by visiting and entering planning application number P/FUL/2022/06707 and P/LBC/2022/06710 respectively.

Further updates on progress will be posted here in due course.

September 2022 – Plans Approved

At the Town Council meeting held on Monday 26th September 2022, Councillors unanimously resolved that:

The Town Council approves the updated plans which incorporate recommendations from the access audit report and the plans are now submitted to the local planning authority.


April 2022

Rare glimpse into the original Corn Exchange interior – April 2022

As more detailed work takes place on proposals to repair and improve the Corn Exchange, some of the low-level modern plywood panelling has been removed and offered a rare glimpse of the original decorative scheme.

As part of the project, emerging proposals seek to repair and restore some of the original historic features of the building and bring back some of the original beauty of this fantastic building. As part of this, the team behind the project were keen to understand what was behind the plywood panelling that runs all the way around the walls of the Corn Exchange, how much of the original tiled scheme remains and what condition it is in having only seen tantalising glimpses behind the radiator vents and two historic photographs.

The maintenance team at the Town Council carefully removed a series of demountable panels and the design team visited a few weeks ago to inspect.  Everyone was thrilled to see that the majority of the Victorian Faience Tiling was still in place and mostly in very good condition. The tiles were a beautiful combination of earthy greens, browns and reds with repeating patterns and panels. The uncovering also revealed two large fireplaces either side of the hall though sadly the surrounds have been removed and the fireplaces blocked up. Perhaps most exciting and intriguing is a repeating tile showing a female portrait in relief which we hope to find out more about in the future.

The conclusion of the exercise suggests that there is a high-quality interior scheme behind the panelling and that it is largely in-tact. Whilst uncovering will bring back some of the history and beauty of the space it could also create challenges with acoustics that will need to be carefully considered and addressed to make sure the Corn Exchange is fully fit for purpose.

Building on this exercise, the Town Council is keen to collate any historic images of the interior of the Corn Exchange and other parts of the building that people may have.  The team behind the project want to understand more about previous decorative schemes and, in particular, the design of the fireplaces which were removed many years ago. If you have any images from parties, pantos, events or any other activity within the Corn Exchange from pre-1973 we would love to hear from you, so please get in touch via

The Town Council would also like to thank all those who attended the Community Expo in March. The Expo included exhibition panels that explained more about proposals for the Corn Exchange project and it was great to see people taking an interest and engaging with the Council.

Photo 3Photo 6Colin Tile

March 2022

Public Consultation Board 1

Public consultation 2


Public Consultation Board 3


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