Future of Church Hall in Soham Will Be Decided At Meeting

A LONG-RUNNING dispute over the future of Soham s central community building could be brought to an end on Wednesday, as councillors decide whether to turn the site over for housing. Vicar of St Andrew s Church, Tim Alban Jones, caused controversy in som

A LONG-RUNNING dispute over the future of Soham's central community building could be brought to an end on Wednesday, as councillors decide whether to turn the site over for housing.

Vicar of St Andrew's Church, Tim Alban Jones, caused controversy in some sections of the community when he announced the sale of the church hall, on High Street, to pay for improvements to the church itself.

The hall had stood almost unused for the previous 10 years, but a committed group of former town councillors and residents formed a trust to save it. They began an 18-month battle of petitions and protests, which even prompted one member of the church to send protesters anonymous letters.

Despite the Community Hall Trusts' pleas, the hall was sold earlier this year to developer Amber Homes, subject to planning permission.


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According to plans submitted to the district council in April, nine houses and four flats could be accommodated on the site - but Soham Town Council raised concerns that the site would be overdeveloped. Those plans will be discussed by councillors on Wednesday.

Planning officers at district council have not raised concerns housing density, but recommended that the application be refused, on the grounds that the Amber Homes is refusing to specify which community facilities it is legally obliged to provide.

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The planning officer reported to councillors: "To date the applicant has not entered into negotiations. There is also a proven need for community facilities within Soham and therefore it is required that new development makes a contribution."

"A development of 13 family-sized dwellings can only add to that need," she added.

Amber Homes have suggested "upgrading" the Fountain Lane play area and are expected by law to contribute approximately £1,500-worth of community facilities per home.

Updates will be available after Wednesday's meeting at www.elystandard24.co.uk

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