Ledbury Town Council will hire consultants to look at ways to improve access to the town’s icon building, the Grade One listed Market House, and that could include a modern lift.

In December, the town council insisted there had been “no formal discussions” and added in a statement: “Nor has any work been confirmed.”

But this week, town clerk Angie Price, issuing another statement on behalf of the town council, said: “The issue was raised by one councillor in a meeting of the Economic Development and Planning Committee.

“It was agreed that a consultant would be engaged to advise the council on what, if anything, could be undertaken to make the Market House Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) compliant, whilst working within the constraints of Listed Building regulations.

She added: “A consultant has yet to be engaged, following which a report on their recommendations will be provided to council for further consideration.”

But the very idea of a lift has caused dismay once again among Ledbury residents, not least because this is the third time in two decades that the concept has been seriously floated, and on each occasion it has generated strong feelings, including on social media.

Posting on the Voice of Ledbury Facebook site, Ledbury resident Ewen Sinclair called recent town council discussions about a lift “outrageous” and he added: “These people want to spend on consultants to advise on the viability of a glass lift for the Market House. This has already been looked into by Ledbury Places who spent circa £500k on consultants. It's easy to spend other people’s money. The precept has increased by 41 per cent in the last two years; wait for the next increase.”

And former councillor and town mayor, Annette Crowe, referring to the understrength nature of the present council, said of the lift debate: “This was raised a few years ago and dismissed. Is this council representative of the town? - bearing in mind that there are only half the councillors there should be.”

Colin Marshall, posting on the Ledbury Politics Group Facebook page said: “What the current council seem to be ignoring is the proposed lift is nothing new and has been rejected by the population before. What makes the council think that has changed?

The DDA speaks of "reasonable adjustments" to the structure of historic buildings; putting a lift in the Market House is not a ‘reasonable adjustment’.

Ledbury’s seventeenth century Market House is widely viewed as a symbol of the town and town council; but councillors are looking at ways to make it more economically viable, as well as providing better disabled access.

The black and white building on stilts has been used regularly as public space, including for some council meetings and Herefordshire Guild of Craftsmen exhibitions; but present access is up a challenging outdoor staircase, which was installed in Victorian times.

The lift issue has indeed been a hot topic before. In 2003, the town council decided against a lift and sought legal opinions on the consequences of its agreed policy of doing nothing in the face of the incoming disability access laws, which required disabled access to public buildings.

Also in that year, a petition to stop a lift being installed in the Market House attracted 7,180 signatures.

In 2014, the Ledbury Places Group and the Civic Society suggested a lift should be installed in the Grade I listed building, which dates back to 1617. But this was again resisted by the town council of the day.