Petersfield Town Council has gone back to the drawing board after East Hampshire planning officers said initial plans for its £13 million modernisation of Festival Hall is “likely to be refused”.

Although not a listed building, the hall and surrounding area is described in the Petersfield Neighbourhood Plan as ‘a key part of the town’ and the town’s Conservation Area Character Appraisal and Management Plan described it as a ‘focal building’ and an ‘important focus of community activity.’

It is owned by Petersfield Town Council which wants to modernise the combined theatre and town hall which was paid for by Petersfield residents and opened in 1936.

The work is likely to be phased, as and when money is available, but it could cost more than £13 million; where that money will come from is unclear.

Town clerk Neil Hitch said: “It would seem from the information currently available to us that the reasons for refusal are closely linked to the heritage officer’s concerns over the cladding ‘overlay’ on the building to meet carbon neutrality standards.”

He added in his report to Thursday evening's town council meeting that a meeting has been held with planners to “discuss the difficulties in further detail”, adding “their views are awaited”.