No agreement on new Debden Village Hall with grant deadline looming
PUBLISHED: 10:52 23 January 2017 | UPDATED: 11:21 23 January 2017
No agreement has been reached on plans to build a new village hall in Debden less than two weeks before nearly £250,000 of grant funding is pulled.
An eleventh hour proposal was turned down by trustees of the existing hall last week over viability issues and fears it could put the village shop at risk.
The latest plan, proposed by a resident, would see the current hall knocked down with a new one built on the existing site, a move which is supported by the Recreation Ground Trust (RGT), who owns the land.
However, the New Village Hall Group (NVHG) and the Village Hall Trust (VHT) claim that plan would endanger the attached village shop and sub-post office, which, along with many community groups, would not be able to operate during demolition and re-building.
The NVHG and VHT says their proposal – to build opposite the current hall and back onto the sports field using a piece of the car park – would keep the existing hall and shop in use until building work is completed on the new facility.
But the RGT is unwilling to swap any land and want the current car park and recreation ground to stay as it is.
Delays caused by the disagreement over exactly where to put the new hall have resulted in an end of the month deadline from the Ministry of Defence (MoD), who are ready to withdraw their £236,400 worth of grant funding if the situation is not resolved.
The NVHG and the VHT say that if the MoD grant is lost, the project will not go ahead.
Mike Fairchild, chairman of the NVHG, said: “If there was any will on the part of the RGT to allow the land swap, it could still go ahead.
“Certain members have simply dug their heels in, to the anger of many residents.
“The trustees of the recreation ground have badly let down the village community whose interests they are supposed to represent. They have ignored pleas to think about the younger generation and now with the threat to the village shop, could make life difficult for the older generation.
“Even at this late hour, we have appealed to the RGT to accept that the proposal our team of volunteers and the Village Hall Trust have worked on tirelessly over the last four years is the only viable solution. Why throw away planning approval, the support of residents and more than half the funding?”
A spokeswoman for the Recreation Ground Trust said: “It was our understanding that the village hall trustees were awaiting more information and details on the proposal, but had not rejected it out of hand.”