Last-ditch stand to find funds to save parish hall
SOHAM residents are racing against time in a bid to save their parish hall land from housing developers. Bids are already on the table for the half acre site which is on the market with a guide price of around £350,000. Church officials are keen to push a
SOHAM residents are racing against time in a bid to save their parish hall land from housing developers.
Bids are already on the table for the half acre site which is on the market with a guide price of around £350,000.
Church officials are keen to push ahead with one of the offers which would bring in vital cash for repairs to historic Grade I listed St Andrew's Church.
But town and district councillors have urged them to hold back on securing any deal until they can investigate whether they can come up with the cash to save the site for the community.
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Soham town councillor Peter Beer won support at last week's town council meeting for a motion calling on the church authorities to hold off for three months while members tried to raise the money.
He said: "The parish hall is very dilapidated and probably not economically repairable. But we are more concerned with the site in the heart of Soham. If that were turned into a little housing estate the town would suffer a considerable loss.
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"We would like to see whether we could raise the money with the help of the district council but we know we are fighting against pretty heavy odds.
"We cannot enter into any magical bidding war but we want the church authorities to give us the chance to match the best offer on the table. In the meantime we want them not to take any action on the site."
Angry Soham councillors John Palmer and Colin Fordham won support of some of their fellow councillors at an East Cambridgeshire District Council committee meeting last month asking church authorities to hold back on the sale for six months.
They have led the campaign to save the parish hall which was bought with public subscription in 1928.
Cllr Fordham said: "We are trying to get this sale stopped .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."
But the church authorities are facing a bill of £600,000 just to keep the ancient church watertight and money raised from the sale of the hall site would be put towards these costs.
Churchwarden Chris Palmer said the town council's request would be discussed when the church committee meets again on the first Tuesday in February.
But he added: "The site has been up for sale for a long while and we have had several bids. There is one that we are very keen to see go through.
"We are providing an area in the church which can be used by the community for meetings and group activities.