Don't sell our hall

PUBLISHED: 15:16 29 November 2006 | UPDATED: 13:36 04 May 2010

Pic cap: Cllr John Palmer (left) and Cllr Colin Fordham oppose the sale of the parish hall for housing. Photo: HELEN DRAKE

Pic cap: Cllr John Palmer (left) and Cllr Colin Fordham oppose the sale of the parish hall for housing. Photo: HELEN DRAKE

THE sale of a parish hall and land for housing in Soham s Conservation Area has prompted fierce opposition. Plans for the half acre site - for sale with a guide price of around £350,000 - involve tearing down the old hall in the High Street and building

THE sale of a parish hall and land for housing in Soham's Conservation Area has prompted fierce opposition.

Plans for the half acre site - for sale with a guide price of around £350,000 - involve tearing down the old hall in the High Street and building five terraced houses and two detached houses on the land.

But angry Soham councillors John Palmer and Colin Fordham are vehemently opposed to the sale, claiming the St Andrew's Church hall should be kept for the community.

Cllr Palmer, who represents Soham North on East Cambridgeshire District Council said: "This hall was bought with public subscription in 1928 and was used regularly by the community up until a few years ago when it was leased to an antique dealer for storage.

"We used to have jumble sales and dances there and it was used by local groups. When you have a town like Soham which is expanding there is going to be more need than ever before to have a hall like this for community use. I am totally opposed to its sale."

Cllr Fordham said the hall was given to the people of Soham and should be retained for the community.

"We are trying to get this sale stopped," he said. "I feel so strongly about this. This hall could be saved and the whole piece of land used as a car park for the town. We have 1,000 new homes being built in Soham which will bring 2,000 new cars.

"Children are walking down on to the recreation ground on cold, wet nights for their club meetings when they could be meeting here. The church is the wealthiest outfit in the country yet they keep taking money from us."

But St Andrew's Church vicar, the Rev Timothy Alban Jones says the hall is beyond repair with "holes in the roof the size of dinner plates".

He said: "We are facing a bill of £600,000 just to keep the church watertight and available for the 21st Century. The money raised from the sale of the hall will be put towards these costs.

"We have the only Grade I listed church in Soham and it is our duty to maintain it as best we can. We cannot afford to run both the church and the church hall.

"If anyone thinks the church is rich they don't have a full understanding of the situation. But if Soham Town Council or East Cambridgeshire District Council want to stump up the money to buy the hall and keep it for the community we would be more than happy to sell it to them."

Soham residents are invited to meet their Liberal Democrat councillors in the town this weekend to discuss, among other items, the proposed development of the parish hall land.

Cambridgeshire County Councillor Judy Broadway, who represents Soham and Fordham, says: "I hope to meet residents face-to-face and find out what they want for Soham."

The event will take place outside the town's Co-op store on Saturday morning from 12 noon to 1pm.

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