Protesters in Soham Lose Fight To Save Village Hall
PROTESTERS in Soham have lost their fight to save the town s community hall. Plans for 13 homes on the site – and the 80-year-old hall to be razed to the ground – were on the agenda for discussion at East Cambridgeshire District Council on Wednesday, but
PROTESTERS in Soham have lost their fight to save the town's community hall.
Plans for 13 homes on the site - and the 80-year-old hall to be razed to the ground - were on the agenda for discussion at East Cambridgeshire District Council on Wednesday, but the planning committee passed the buck to a council official, under delegated powers, and asked him to make the final decision.
Executive director for development at East Cambridgeshire District Council, David Archer, will negotiate a deal with developer Amber Homes, who are legally obliged to contribute to new community facilities to the town. Case planning officer Susannah Dyer had recommended the plans for refusal, but at the final hour, the developer agreed to enter into negotiations and the recommendation was altered in favour of acceptance.
Chairman of the Planning Committee, Philip Reed, said after the meeting: "The developers had agreed to the need for a contribution to public open space but the letter did not arrive before the agenda was produced.
"The problem for the committee was that a lot of the matters being introduced were not relevant material planning considerations but were matters for the various parties to determine in another arena."
Cllr James Palmer, who represents Soham North and is an active member of St Andrew's Church, declared an interest and left the room while the future of the hall was discussed.
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At public meetings during the past year, protestors frequently entered into heated discussions with councillors and members of St Andrew's Church, as all efforts to save the hall failed.
There will be relief for many church members as the long-running saga comes to an end. One church supporter was moved to send protestors anonymous letters earlier this year, asking that they leave the church to focus on essential repairs instead of the future of a building that many claim had been unused by the community for more than 10 years.
A five-month long, £5,000 consultant's report into Soham's community buildings found there was a need for a central, large capacity community facility in the town, and a working party has been set up to try to put the report's findings into practice.