Since the following article was published the "Yes/No" Voting slips have been posted
and already have,
or soon will be, dropping through Farringdon letterboxes.
Due to delays in the process, the closing date for replies has been postponed until 7th May
Also, it has been announced that the count will be conducted by
(The Parish Clerk/Responsible Finance Officer)
who is neither an Officer of or Village Hall Charity Trustee, and therefore
for an independent person () to oversee the process.
The Biz' has alsoreceived a letter from John Prynne, a Chairman of the former Farringdon Village Hall Management Committee
which is available here. ()
In the next few days, voting slips will be cascading through the letterboxes of those on the Farringdon Electoral Roll to decide whether they do, or do not, support the current plan for a New Village Hall.
The Farringdon Village Hall Charity is encouraging recipients to return their slips by the end of April.
Voters will be asked to give a simple yes or no to the construction of a brand new Village Hall on a site to the West of the A32 just North of the Golden Pheasant car park.
The village hall April newsletter has now been published and there is apparently a planning application in progress which includes a revision of the access to separate public and residential traffic from the A32 but, at the time of writing, this application was not included in the current online lists of planning applications although, when it does eventually appear,it will be on the South Downs Planning Portal not, as stated in the current Newsletter, the East Hants Planning list.
Following the two open meetings on the Village Hall project, held in the Church, the FVHC trust agreed to make their business plan available to the residents of Farringdon, the contents of which, as most of you will have seen, prompted not altogether supportive responses which were published in the April edition of the Farringdon and Chawton Parish Magazine.
Also included in this issue was a response from the FVHC Trustees to the suggestion that funds might be better used to support an alternative scheme to make better use of the space already available in All Saints Church.
To accurately forecast the budget for any major project is a difficult task at the best of times, even for experienced professionals and, in this case, the design seems to be over complicated in an attempt to combine public facilities and commercial space which, it was suggested, be beyond the remit of the Village Hall Charity.
Producing a realistic budget is further complicated by the current financial and political climate. Inflation is going to influence the costs of landscaping and construction and, even if the considerable extra costs can be funded, the availability of materials could possibly create further expense and possible delays.
Even if the current estimates are realistic, the project will only proceed if the “village referendum” results in a favourable response, which in turn brings us back to another point raised by Steve Doherty’s contribution to the current Parish Magazine which questions how the ballot will organised and what constitutes a majority vote
Will it require more than 50% of the eligible voters in Farringdon to vote in favour of the project, or will a simple majority suffice?
If the latter is the case, will a minimum percentage of votes have to be returned to validate the result?
Without some sort of base line, to take an extreme example, if only 30 votes were returned, would 16 votes would constitute a majority, be they “Yes” or “No”.
There doesn't appear, as yet, to be any details as to how the actual counting process for the referendum will be conducted or which independent body or persons will be doing the counting to ensure the validity of the ballot, indeed there has not, to date, been any commitment from the Trustees to publish the full results of the referendum when the votes have been counted.
There is also the nagging question of how much this “democratic” process will cost and who will be paying for it. As far as your reporter is aware no figures have been made public but I would suspect it would require the best part of £1000 by the time the costs of postage to and from all the households in the Village and administration expenses are taken into account.
On the subject of finance, having viewed the Business Plan, it appears that, should the current project go ahead, the FVH trust will purchase the land using proceeds from the sale of the Folly. This in spite of the fact that such a purchase would appear to breach the current deeds of trust which clearly states on the Trust Charity commission page that:
“ . . . This charity does not own and/or lease land or property . . . . “
Possibly the Trustees are intending to put forward an amendment to the deeds to permit the purchase to go through but such amendments would take some time, as changes would presumably have to be put forward at a public meeting and, if approved, would then have to scrutinised and approved in turn by the Charity Commissioners,
Any such amendment would also have to provide clear and precise details of how any such assets should be disposed of or distributed should the need arise at some time in the near or distant future.
The FVHC Trust business plan was eventually made available but only after pressure from village residents, and in some instances it would appear that not all of the trustees are kept fully informed of what is proposed let alone the trust members, the people of Farringdon, quite a number of whom are still concerned that they are being asked to commit to a project without sufficient independent information to give an informed judgment.
This time next month we may know how the votes were cast and have some idea whether the Village wishes to support, or reject, the current plans and, should the no vote prevail, use the Farringdon Hall Village Trust Fund to finance alternative solutions to the provision of a public space in the Village of Farringdon.