On the march

PUBLISHED: 09:06 22 February 2007 | UPDATED: 13:51 04 May 2010

Jacky Hibbert and Liz Jugg out collecting signatures for the petition - Pic: Geoff Durrant

Jacky Hibbert and Liz Jugg out collecting signatures for the petition - Pic: Geoff Durrant

CAMPAIGNERS fighting to save their parish hall site are planning a protest march in Soham town centre on Saturday. Placard-waving demonstrators will march from Red Lion square near the War Memorial to St Andrew s vicarage at Cross Green to express their a

CAMPAIGNERS fighting to save their parish hall site are planning a protest march in Soham town centre on Saturday.

Placard-waving demonstrators will march from Red Lion square near the War Memorial to St Andrew's vicarage at Cross Green to express their anger at the site being sold for housing.

Posters have been displayed around the town advertising the march, which will start at 11am.

More than 1,000 people have also signed a petition objecting to the sale of the High Street land to a developer in a £500,000-plus deal.

They want to see the site saved for community use so that a new parish hall can be built or the old one refurbished.

On Monday, East Cambridgeshire District Council officials posted notice of a planning application at the site.

The hall had been used as a furniture store until it fell into disrepair, and Soham councillors Peter Beer, John Palmer and Colin Fordham have applied to change its use back to a parish hall and car park with up to 50 spaces.

Cllr Beer said: "We have put in this application as private residents and it is intended as a safeguard in the event that the sale of the land does not go through.

"This has to be considered as there are a dozen reasons why the sale could stumble at the last minute."

Soham Town Council and East Cambridgeshire District Council had asked the Parochial Church Council to delay the sale of the land so that they could investigate whether cash could be raised to match the developer's bid.

But the PCC refused and is pressing ahead with the sale to raise cash to repair Grade I listed St Andrew's Church, which needs £600,000 worth of repair and renovation work.

Petition organiser Liz Jugg said: "There is a lot of strength of feeling. Although the hall is an eyesore at the moment it is an historical building and it has sentimental value. The townsfolk have fought for it twice before.

"Once the hall is gone it is gone forever. But money talks these days."

Campaigner Julie Webb, who has been collecting signatures on the petition, said: "We have had a great response from the town. Everyone seems united in this. We have had support from new members of the community and the European residents.

"Even the youngsters have been coming up to give us their support. They say they have nowhere to go to listen to live music or attend a youth club. The other halls are too big and too expensive.

"We want to see this community facility preserved. It is such a prime site in the town and if it goes for housing it will be lost for ever."

Campaigners are planning to organise a display of memorabilia from the parish hall.

Copies of the petition are being sent to East Cambridgeshire District Council, St. Andrew's Parochial Church Council and the Archbishop of Canterbury.

A St Andrew's Parochial Church Council spokesman said: "We are aware of the march on Saturday and that people have the right to state their opinions.

"However, the church went through a lengthy procedure to sell the site involving sealed bids. All of those received were from developers and being a charity, as St Andrew's is, we have a legal obligation to sell to the highest bidder.

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