ASHBOURNE Town Hall has been tipped to become the next tourist information centre in Ashbourne, providing district councillors give plans the nod at a forthcoming meeting.
As part of a review that will save Derbyshire Dales District Council £110,000, it plans to close the current office in Ashbourne’s Market Place, and to replace it with a ‘visitor information point’ (VIP) at a different location in the town.
The report, which has been put before members of the environment committee ahead of a meeting due to take place tomorrow in Matlock, lists three possible venues shortlisted to host a new VIP - including GT News in the Market Place, Ashbourne Bookstore in Dig Street and Ashbourne Town Hall.
Planning boss Paul Wilson has reccomended in the report that the councillors vote to work with Ashbourne Town Council to set up a VIP in the town hall, after identifying problems with the other two venues put forward.
GT News, he reports, is in a good location and has enthusiastic staff keen to promote the town to visitors - but he fears there is insufficient space for the provision of a dedicated staff member, meaning priorities would be divided between running the busy newsagent business and answering enquiries.
Ashbourne Bookstore, Mr Wilson states, has an ‘ideal location’ and plenty of space to host a VIP but lack of a guarantee over its next lease has made it a less preferable option.
Ashbourne’s new library had also been put forward as an option, but county council staff would, he has concluded, not be in a position to carry out all the tasks involved.
He admits his favourite site, the town hall, will not be as visible as a tourist information centre due to its lack of glass frontage but it has nevertheless been put forward as the preferred option in his final recommendation.
He writes: “The town hall is in a good location on the market square. However, the lack of an external window display would mean that the VIP would not have a visible presence to visitors who may be unfamiliar with the town.
“Considerable effort would therefore need to be made to ensure that the VIP was appropriately ‘signposted’ for visitors.
“The establishment of a high quality VIP in Ashbourne is critical to ensuring that visitors to the town are provided with the quality and range of information that is necessary.
“In this regard, it is considered that Ashbourne Town Council offers the best option for the establishment of a VIP at the town hall.”
It has also been recommended that a one-off handout of £10,000 be paid to the town council to help set up the VIP and make modifications to the building.
A timescale for the closure of Ashbourne’s current Tourist Information Centre, which attracts around 50,000 visitors per year, is also due to be decided at the meeting.