EXTRA-ORDINARY VILLAGE MEETING HELD
IN THE VILLAGE HALL ON FRIDAY 28 FEBRUARY
A meeting of the village had been called to seek views on two primary subjects - the future of Chase Field and the future of the Village Hall.
In attendance were:
Cllr Keith Haskell (Chairman)
Martin Jeffries and Laurence Edwards (De Moundfort/Landford Homes)
Steve Miles (Upton McGougan)
John Dale (Tetlow King)
Harry Hepple (Charles Church)
Chris Murray (EHDC)
David Hughes (Hughes Ellard/Downlands)
Mike Findlay (Parish Clerk).
Several displays were mounted including examples of designs and layouts of recently built village halls, and design of a proposed redevelopment of the Chase Fields area (detailed planning proposals for this still awaited).
A capacity crowd in excess of 100 filled the Village Hall. Several apologies for absence had been received; those concerned would receive a copy of this report.
It was explained that New Downlands Housing Trust had suffered substantially through the flooding of Chase Fields, and that, as the dwellings were still considered habitable by EHDC, a write-off value of the properties by the insurers was not available. As a recipient of public funds, Downlands was required legally to relinquish their interest in the site for best value, and the site had been put on the open market for sale. Several bids had been received which were a cause for concern to the Parish Council who were worried that such offers reflected an intention to seek a quick return on a minimal refurbishment of the existing houses without any real commitment to the future of the site and with absolutely no input from parish, district or county as to possible tenants; this was wholly unacceptable.
The preferred option (planning details of which, formally, have yet to be received) was the plan displayed at the meeting. This entailed the building of a small development of new houses round a "square" above Chase Fields (further up Shirnall Hill) but using the existing access to Chase Fields. The existing houses would be removed and the site returned to the village as a green area to be put to best purpose; e.g. a possible site for a new village hall and a kick-about area or childrens' playground.
The proposed brief for development of the Mill Site was still awaited from EHDC. Lengthy discussions took place about flooding and the risk of recurrence took place, and about the need for smaller houses in the village. The feelings of the meeting were mixed. A few people were wholly opposed to the development, while others welcomed it as a move to eliminate the current eyesore at Chase Field and reduction of the future flooding risk to Lower Farringdon as a whole.
More widespread concern was expressed at the lack of small (1/2 bedroom) housing especially when there seemed no provision for affordable/starter housing in any existing plan for the future of the village. It was pointed out that housing associations did/could not prioritise local applicants, and that social housing gave priority to those judged to be in greatest need.
Though linked with the above, in one aspect, the second half of the meeting considered the future of the Village Hall. Effectively, there were three proposals before the meeting:
- To keep the current village hall without any internal changes to Massey's Folly
- To keep the current hall but reduce liabilities by re-dividing with the other half of the building owned by the T T Andreae 1990 Discretionary Settlement (later referred to as "The Trust")
- To arrange for a joint sale of Massey's Folly, seek a site for, and build, a new custom-designed village hall.
The meeting was informed of the worrying financial problems if the current village hall was retained. Insurance costs (somewhat out-with our control) had spiralled, essential roof repairs and other maintenance to this Grade 2 Listed building had to be balanced against declining income from letting - especially with the recent demise of the nursery school, and reduced lettings for private functions.
Despite the most optimistic forecasts, the Hall was running at a deficit which could, with current financial reserves, be only sustained for perhaps 3 years. Funds might be available from external sources to cover capital expenditure on a listed building and a registered folly, but not for ordinary running costs. The co-owner of the Folly (The Trust) was now pressing for permission to renovate and conduct essential maintenance to their half of the property with a view to letting/selling their equity in the building; their proposal, to eliminate the flying freeholds currently applying, was to re-divide the Folly to isolate the village hall from the Trust property.
This would cause some problems to the Village Hall in respect of
- Loss of current kitchen facilities
- Loss of minor rooms on the first floor
- Loss of access to the cellar (and boiler),
- Questionable objections from the fire authority through reduction of fire exits.
However, such a division would relieve an untenable position regarding parking behind the hall. In any case, without a re-division the existing kitchen would be lost as its emergency exit would be blocked off.
There was an option, presented earlier in the meeting, of a possible alternative site on which to construct a custom-built village hall to replace the current hall at Massey's Folly; the cost of construction could largely be met by grants, and the facility could be much more attractive to letting, as it could incorporate smaller room units and other features, such as badminton, and running costs, such as heating would be minimised.
As expected, there was much discussion on the various aspects by those present. It was suggested that the village might acquire the other half of Massey's Folly and develop this for financial gain (however, this could not be done legally by the Parish Council). It was pointed out that time was of the essence; the Trust required that decision and action be implemented without delay so that they might pursue their alterations to the Folly.
Though not taken to a vote, it was apparent that the majority of the village attending was strongly in favour of retaining the Folly as the site of the Village Hall, and that, pursuant to this, the arrangements to separate The Trust's half of the property from the Village Hall should proceed with the full involvement of the Village Hall Committee and the Parish Council.
The Chairman announced that there would be a village vote on the future of the hall at a future time. This was scheduled for the Annual Village Meeting to be held on Wednesday 30 April 2003.
PARISHIONERS ARE ADVISED
THAT THE VILLAGE MEETING WILL BE
ON WEDNESDAY 30 APRIL 2003
THE EVE OF POLLING DAY FOR
PARISH AND DISTRICT COUNCIL
ELECTIONS [THURSDAY 1 MAY 2003]
DETAILS OF BOTH WILL BE DISPLAYED ON
THE VILLAGE NOTICE BOARDS.