Planning dilemma

LAST week, the district council voted to extend Soham s conservation area from the High Street down to Angle Common and various places in between. On the face of it, this isn t a bad idea. Nobody wants Soham to turn into a cross between Harlow and Tesco

LAST week, the district council voted to extend Soham's conservation area from the High Street down to Angle Common and various places in between.

On the face of it, this isn't a bad idea. Nobody wants Soham to turn into a cross between Harlow and Tesco's car park, but a major priority for a lot of us is for the town to prosper.

Some of us do wonder if imposing extra tight and expensive planning requirements on businesses is a way to help the town's recovery.

I took a trip through part of the old conservation area last week from Cross Green to Stone Bridge. At a rough count, there were 13 shops either standing empty or converted into dwellings. The total went up by one on Saturday with the closing of Saucy Meg's café and the loss of seven jobs.

If this keeps up, it won't just be the new estates that are dormitories for Cambridge and London, the High Street will follow suit.

I don't suppose that will matter much to the powers-that-be in Ely - we can always do all our shopping in their little city.

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A building that everyone agrees must be preserved is our magnificent church. Unfortunately, an ancient structure like that isn't cheap to maintain and the local Parochial Church Council constantly needs funds to patch the roof and other parts of the building's fabric.

They now have the chance to get hold of a nice bundle of money by selling off the old church hall and the substantial site it stands on. The latest report is that they have been offered £500,000 for it. That's a lot of lead and flint!

Several people in town would like to see another community hall on the site and would like the PCC to hang fire on the sale for a few months to see if the town can access enough funds to match the developer's offer.

The fact that the site is in the conservation area could throw spanners in works from all directions.

Perhaps we could take a leaf out of Ely's book and have a sculpture outside the church hall with a film of the church hall on it.

Guiding lights ...

TWO buildings in town that have definitely reached their sell-by date are the Guide and Scout huts on the rec.

Both are suffering from old age and tend to let in water as well as enjoying the attentions of the brainless minority of people who should know better.

Last week, a group of leaders and parents formed a committee to raise funds for a new building on the site. With more than 200 youngsters attending various Guide, Scout, Brownie, Cub, Rainbow, etc. meetings each week it's only fair that they have a decent venue in which to carry out their activities.

Cargo capers

THE pantomime on the beach in Devon last week when the locals were "rescuing" the cargo of the stricken container ship was just like a scene from Compton Mackenzie's Whisky Galore.

It also reminded me of an incident in Soham a few years ago.

Before the Downfields roundabout was enlarged to its present radius, the turn on to the bypass was a bit tighter. This proved a bit much for one lorry, which flopped over shedding its cargo of onions all over the verge.

Once the news got out, there were locals all over the place gathering bags full of vegetables. I imagine the onions didn't end up being sold on eBay.

Happy folk

FEBRUARY 5, being the first Monday of the month, will see the second folk night of the year at the Fountain, from 8.30pm.

This is the most successful regular promotion of the Soham Festival Society - the cinema evenings having been abandoned due to low attendance.

The same evening, at the same venue, is the monthly meeting of the Soham Dive Club. Beginners or experienced divers are equally welcome.

To find out more, call Matt Chambers on 07887 571681.

On February 7, the Soham Community History Museum is holding a general knowledge quiz night at the Methodist Church Hall on Berrycroft, from 7.30pm. The cost is £2.50 per person, which includes a light supper. In view of the venue, it will be a teetotal event, but it should be a fun evening.

A sad farewell

SOHAM'S oldest person, Lucy Pollard, passed away on Saturday.

Mrs Pollard, who had been cared for in Bottisham for a number of years, was just six weeks from her 107th birthday.

She will be missed by her family and friends who have now lost her vast store of memories forever.