Soham Scouts and Guides are Down But Not Out Over Hut Plans
SCOUTS and Guides in Soham were left disappointed but not disheartened this week as plans for a new hut were refused. The groups have raised more than £15,000 towards the cost of a new hut which would replace two dilapidated, leaking buildings on the re
SCOUTS and Guides in Soham were left disappointed but not disheartened this week as plans for a new hut were refused.
The groups have raised more than £15,000 towards the cost of a new hut which would replace two dilapidated, leaking buildings on the recreation ground.
Planning officials at East Cambridgeshire District Council said that the proposed hut design was out of keeping with the conservation area, and would damage 'residents' amenities,' despite the fact that no residents have objected to the plans.
Soham's town councillors waded into the debate before in an effort to persuade the district council's planning officer to change her mind.
James Palmer told the officer before a planning meeting on Wednesday: "I feel that this building is very important to the youth of Soham.
As far as I am aware there have been no complaints from neighbours about the proximity of the building to the gardens adjoining the recreation ground. "
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Cllr Palmer also questioned the logic of preserving one beech tree when the Scouts had offered to plant five more. "It should be remembered that this is only a tree. What is one tree compared to the enjoyment and education of thousands of children in future?"
Fellow Soham councillor Tony Cornell told the case officer: "The importance of the work done by the Scout and Guide movements in this area are so valuable that we would be remiss if we did not consider their present and future impact and made sure that there was adequate provision and more for expansion."
But Conservative Anthea Davison, who billed herself East Cambridgeshire District Council's design guru, told the Scout Hut representatives she had serious concerns about the building's bulky appearance in the conservation area.
"I feel uncomfortable about having anything to do with this building," she said, "but I appreciate that you have constraints on you financially." She added that the planning committee would be sympathetic to a better-designed building.
"If we are so upset about how the building looks then give them some money to improve it," suggested Jackie Petts. The Scouts and Guides have already been designated £150,000 in money obtained by the council from developers on the AA Griggs site.
Soham Community History Project chairman Donna Martin delivered a strongly worded five minute speech at the meeting, which made claims that the building would not be available for community use and an extra piece of the recreation ground would be commandeered for car parking.
"I don't think anyone would object to the scouts buildings themselves a centre, it is the location that is inappropriate," she added.
Speaking after the meeting, treasurer of the Soham Scout and Guide Hut Association Peter Campbell McBride told the Ely Standard such statements were "pie in the sky" and that his association would work to ensure a fresh design would be submitted to the district council by the end of the summer.
Planning officers have already promised the Scouts they can submit the second proposal for free, and Soham town council also voted in favour of the plans.
Scouting leaders have bowed to public pressure and agreed not to include an air rifle shooting range in the new design, after the Donna Martin, and town councillors Julie Webb and Peggy Gibbon raised objections.