Group seeks heritage status

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‘DISAPPOINTING’: Balmoral Hall faces demolition as Historic Places Mid Canterbury vows to fight for it.
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Historic Places Mid Canterbury members will fight to save the Balmoral Hall, but believe they will be in a race against time.

Chair Nigel Gilkison said a Long Term Plan decision by district councillors last week to demolish or sell the 1936 building in two years was ‘‘incredibly disappointing’’.

Members of the not-for-profit community group will be applying to have the building listed in the district council’s District Plan Heritage Schedule, which is reviewed every 10 years. The review is pending as the last one was formally adopted by the district council in 2014.

Gilkison said the group would be putting forward the Balmoral Hall when the district council called for nominations of potential heritage buildings as part of that plan.

‘‘But it takes at least another two to three years before they work through that and get it adopted. Balmoral Hall will likely be demolished before then,’’ Gilkison said.

He said Ashburton had lost many heritage buildings in recent times, including the district council-owned Cavendish Chambers late last year and the privately-owned Ashburton railway station in 2013.

‘‘It’s disappointing that what little heritage we have left that’s owned by the council, that seems to get tossed on to the pile,’’ he said.

The hall was built an assembly hall for the former Ashburton Technical College.

It is used for a wide range of purposes, including meetings and dance lessons.

A rally cry from dancers for ratepayers to submit to the district council’s Long Term Plan in support of the hall failed to attract majority support. Of 1266 who responded on a question of what to do with the hall and its neighbouring polytech land, 57 per cent said to sell both sites. Only 24 per cent chose for the hall and polytech site to be retained and repaired, and eight per cent chose a none-of-the-above option, reflecting a theme of retaining the hall but selling the polytech site to help finance upgrading the hall.

Nigel Gilkison. Photo File.