Stoke & Staffordshire

Fenton Town Hall sit-in to last until Christmas

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Media captionCampaigners say they want to ensure the future of Fenton Town Hall

Campaigners occupying a former town hall and magistrates court in Stoke-on-Trent have said they will spend Christmas there.

About 30 people started a sit-in at Fenton Town Hall on 9 November in protest at plans to sell it.

It was one of 93 courts in England and Wales identified for closure in 2012, as part of measures expected to save £41m.

Protesters called for time to prepare their own plans for the building.

They said their decision to remain at the town hall followed a meeting on Tuesday with Minister for the Courts and Legal Aid Shailesh Vara, Labour MP for Stoke-on-Trent South Rob Flello and the Victorian Society.

The protesters said they had failed to get assurances they would be given time to develop their own business plan.

They hope to turn it into a community facility, including restaurant and bar, along with offices to allow local businesses to contribute rent.

Westminster debate

The group said a memorial remembering local people who died during the two world wars was also at risk, although the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) said there was a covenant to protect it.

The government said it had a duty to ensure the best deal for tax payers, while campaigners said they believed two offers on the building were already being considered.

The future of the town hall, built in 1886, was also debated at Westminster Hall on Tuesday evening after time was secured by Mr Flello.

Speaking afterwards, he said he was "disappointed" by the government's position, saying campaigners had to present a "sustainable" business plan quickly if the building was to be secured for the community.

Protesters said they would remain there "until it is given back to the local community" and were surviving on food and other donations from local people.

They said they had spent their time cleaning the building and setting up a community library.

The MoJ previously said the protest was a matter for the police.

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