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.
Planning application for Corn Exchange 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 https://planning.dorsetcouncil.gov.uk/ 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.
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.
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 email@example.com.
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.