SETTLE Town Hall could be transformed into a one-stop-shop for local services.

At a meeting of Settle Town Council this week, Craven District Council's chief executive Gill Dixon outlined plans for a major transformation of the listed building which could attract outside funding.

Mrs Dixon said the town hall currently generated around £19,000 in income annually, although the outgoings cost the district council around £90,000 a year.

The plans, for which a small-scale feasibility study has already taken place, suggest the premises incorporate a library and registry facilities including a wedding room, a 67 square metre function room, reception, washroom and staff facilities.

The building would also be turned around so the main doorway was at the opposite side facing the market square with a ramp access and attractive entrance. There would also be a lift to the first floor.

The top floor would remain as residential.

The feasibility study carried out by architects Wales, Wales and Rawson concluded that the proposal was "feasible and will not compromise the overall robustness and integrity of the structural form".

However, if the plans go ahead there will be no room on the ground floor for the shops which currently occupy three corners of the building, namely a flower shop, fashion shop and pet shop.

Mrs Dixon told the council that the proprietors of the businesses were aware of the suggestions and at least one had made inquiries about leasing retail premises elsewhere in the town.

Coun David Heather said he was particularly concerned about the retailers and hoped the district council would ensure they were offered adequate alternative facilities and compensation.

Mrs Dixon said it was the council's intention to be fair with the traders.

Coun Trevor Graveson suggested more revenue could be generated if the building was refurbished to allow the whole of the ground floor to become retail.

He said the centre of town was the best place for retailers and that the police station - which is already favoured by the county council as a venue for its library and registry facilities - would be better suited for commercial or community use.

"I think you have got to go into more depth because I think if the ground floor was developed for retail it would be worth more than £40,000 a year," he said.

However, Mrs Dixon said keeping the retail premises meant they would not attract public sector funding from the county council for the project. It was also unlikely that other outside funding could be obtained.

She added that costs had not yet been fully worked out as only a partial feasibility study had been commissioned.

"Obviously we do not want to spend thousands of pounds on studies when we are not sure what everyone wants. I don't want our council to go down a blind alley," she said.

Mrs Dixon said other options for the building were limited, but included: doing nothing, which was not an option; sell for business use, which she said could prove difficult given the size of the building; demolition, also not an option; sell for residential, which would be difficult as there would be car parking problems and associated planning issues; and improve the existing uses which, given the current income and expenditure, would not be viable.

The town council agreed to discuss the matter and forward its views to the district council. If the current plans are favoured, a larger feasibility study will be carried out to look at costings.