MORE than 100 people gathered to witness a new era for a former town hall.

Portslade Town Hall has become a hub for the Portslade Neighbourhood Policing Team, the Purple People Kitchen and the area’s new housing office.

In a further boost, the now vacant housing office, also in Victoria Road, is part of a wider plan for housing redevelopment.

Brighton and Hove City Council is preparing to market part of the housing office site, including the vacant offices and car park and is earmarking areas for new housing.

The new policing unit has been welcomed by Chief Superintendent Nev Kemp, the Brighton and Hove Police Commander.

He said: “These facilities in Portslade give our officers a local base from which they can respond, enabling them to spend more time out and in the local community.”

In addition, local community group Purple People Kitchen will have use of a new kitchen and gardens where they will be working with residents to grow their own food.

They will also run a food bank every Friday afternoon.

The city’s mayor, Brian Fitch, cut the town hall’s ribbon at noon before planting a cherry tree on the site and surveying new facilities.

On the restoration, Mr Fitch said, “It’s been beautifully done.

“The services were fragmented before and this has brought those together, meaning information can be shared.

“We will be able to offer a better service for the people of Portslade. It’s a service that people badly needed.”

Portslade Town Hall, which is more than 90 years old, was formerly known as the Ronuk Welfare Hall.

It was used by workers of Ronuk, a polish and wood finishing company, from 1923 through until the late 1950s when the firm moved to Sheffield.

The hall was closed before being sold to the local council in the early 1960s.

Ken Chambers, 92, who was employed by Ronuk from 1937 to 1940, was at yesterday’s opening.

He said, “I must have passed the hall in Victoria Road many times and it all comes back to me instantly.”

On his time with Ronuk, he said the hall was something he “vividly recalled”.

In 1971, Portslade Urban District Council commissioned an avant garde mural for the hall by local artist and resident Barrie Huntbach. Mr Huntbach died in 2006, aged 71, but his son and daughter, Peter Huntbach and Paula Wrightson, attended yesterday’s opening.

Local historian Robin Hurst, of the Portslade Community Forum, added: “Many of us have fond memories of working there and are delighted this important period will now be remembered.”