One-sided' reporting of church hall sale

PUBLISHED: 13:20 22 February 2007 | UPDATED: 13:51 04 May 2010

I WAS born in Soham and have lived here my whole life. I went to many events and clubs at the church hall. These memories are not threatened by its impending loss. For no-one can deny that there is much need for regeneration of this unused central town ar

I WAS born in Soham and have lived here my whole life. I went to many events and clubs at the church hall. These memories are not threatened by its impending loss. For no-one can deny that there is much need for regeneration of this unused central town area.

The church hall was built from money generated by the church at the beginning of the last century and the community have had their money's worth for many years.

It has been upsetting to see the one-sided level of reporting over the issue of the sale of this site. In my view your newspaper has been used to support an unjust campaign. There should be a code of conduct to protect communities from this kind of undertaking.

St Andrew's Church has time and again willingly given up great resources to support its community (as it will continue to do in the future), but with little recognition.

This site has been earmarked for sale for more than a decade. Public meetings were held by the church early on and very little objection was voiced over its sale.

The district council has had more than 10 years to put an offer in, but chose not to. When the site was officially put up for sale this time, the council neglected to negotiate a way of purchasing this land or submit a bid along with other interested parties. Instead they waited for the bids to be submitted and only then decided to insist on the process being stopped while they explored possibilities. The church, through sheer goodwill, agreed to delay the sale until February. Very little progress, if any, was made by the council and they still have no financial, business or building plan. When the council continued to demand further adjournments, they gave the church no choice but to refuse. A few councillors continue to talk of wanting to buy the site, but have no available funds and do not know what they want to do with it. There are many underused community halls and many car parks in the town and so this surely can't be the vision the council base any future plan on. When the council is asked why it has issues with the sale, the reply given is 'because of nostalgia'. (Nostalgia created by good memories provided by the church in the first place. One could be excused for thinking it would be polite to say 'thank you for providing such memories', not insinuate some kind of wrongdoing. Talk about biting the hand that feeds!)

The church has been following a painstaking process. Hours of meetings and endless prayers have been offered in the church's quest for an answer to their concerning plight. There have been no plans put forward by the council or other parties opposed to the sale, despite the excessive timescales they have had to develop them. The sale to a developer is a last resort, but is the only option if St Andrew's Church building is to remain standing for another 10 years. As a result of this there has been an onslaught of accusations made against the church, in response to which it has remained silent and dignified. There has been little direct dialogue between the two parties that has not been initiated by the church or through the newspapers.

Along with the essential repairs, money will go towards providing a community space and other essential facilities within the church so that this truly majestic building can become the central focal point of our wonderful town, once again.

ROBERT PARKER-MCGEE

Editor's Note:

I have to take issue with your claim that our reporting has been one-sided.

My reporter attempted to contact the Parochical Church Council on several occasions and left answer phone messages that were not returned. It was only her persistence and our determination to provide a balanced report that resulted in the PCC issuing a statement in time for our deadline. I also fail to see how you can accuse us of one-sided reporting, but then say your stance was to remain silent.

All newspaper content is bound by the rules of the Press Complaints Commission, I am confident that we have acted in good faith and that our reporting has been fair and balanced. If you have any concerns you can, of course, contact the Press Complaints Commission.

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