THE cost of refurbishing Abingdon’s Guildhall has risen from £3.5m to £4.4m following a public consultation.

The scheme, unveiled this year, includes a 100-seat cinema, modernising the Abbey Hall and improving the accessibility of the whole building.

Abingdon Town Council says the public has called for more to be spent on the exterior of the new hall – as well as more cash to honour the site’s history.

Now, while the council awaits the result of a bid for £1.9m from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) in March, it has begun applying for the extra £2.5m funding needed from other grant-giving bodies.

Alison Rooke, vice-chairman of the town council’s Guildhall committee, said: “The council has worked hard to create a plan which will restore the building to its original 16th-century purpose as a social and community hub for Abingdon, whilst at the same time vastly improving the environmental impact and economic sustainability of the building.” She said the aim was also to draw in more youngsters. The plans for the site include a cafe bar with an outdoor terrace and a new entrance from Bridge Street.

The council hopes the project will reduce the annual running costs to around £20,000 and bring a further 100,000 visitors a year to the town .

Guildhall committee chairman and town councillor Iain Littlejohn said: “If we are bringing a younger audience in, we should help them understand more about the building’s history and artefacts.”

He said this would include visual displays and exhibitions at the hall as well as on its website.

Town clerk Nigel Warner said the rising cost of the scheme was also due to the impact of inflation, because of the project schedule being extended while Lottery cash is sought.

The town council, which took on the ownership of the Guildhall from Vale of White Horse District Council in 2011, plans to run the cinema.

The transfer of ownership also came with a £1m grant from the Vale, which will be put towards the revamp.