The Farringdon Village Hall Trust held first of two open days in the Church last Saturday Morning () which was well attended and certainly provide the Trust members present, David Horton, Penny Cushing, David Williams and Tim Herman, with fair idea of the various views for, against, undecided and even alternatives to current proposals.
First in the queue were Catherine and Frances who were able to peruse the display at leisure and conduct one to one interviews with Tim and David.
Before long before numbers began to swell and the VH Trust Members on hand soon found themselves in demand as the queries, from those with a wide range of opinions, who wanted to express their concerns with the project itself or various aspects of the design and site.
It would seem, from listening to those who had taken the trouble to attend the meeting that there were wide range of views, some supporting the project, some against and those who were still undecided and needed more information before coming to a decision..
It is difficult to decide the level of support for any particular view as, despite the numbers present at this first meeting, they were only a small fraction of the total number of voters who will be able to cast their vote in the "Yes or No" referendum which will be circulated to all households on the Electoral Roll following these two meetings and it is of course, impossible to judge, as with all village issues, how many people share a particular point of view by noting the volume generated on the day!
There seemed to be two common issues that were raised by a number of those present, the access, or more precisely the exit, from the proposed site onto the A32,Gosport Road and the lack of information on the financial aspects of the project.
The proposed site is on a plot of land just to the North of the Golden Pheasant Car Park on the West side of the A32, Gosport Road, The image on the right shows the latest design for the layout and the access track from the A32.
What is not shown is the sweeping bend just beyond the entrance which, for vehicles emerging from the site, restricts the view of traffic approaching from the North.
A previous application to build on the site was turned down after Highways Authority decided the access and particularly the exit from the property was unsafe,
Since that decision the speed limit has been reduced to 30 mph and it would appear that official approval for a vehicle access is now available.
Several Gosport Road residents and many other residents were concerned that despite the various road and flashy signs, not all drivers observe the speed limit and while such drivers might be in the wrong, that is not going to offer much comfort to somebody crossing the A32 on foot, or in car turning right towards the Farringdon crossroads, when they find themselves up against the bonnet of vehicle approaching from the North.
The other main point of concern was that villagers will be asked to vote yes or no to the New Hall with very little information available about how much of the Trusts funds have been spent already and the projected construction cost, architects and professional fees, land purchase etc and what level of occupancy will be required to provide sufficient rental return from hirers to cover the annual cost of heating maintenance etc.
The Farringdon Village Hall Trust received over £380,000 when the Folly was sold and since then, there has been very little information released on what has been spent so far. There was a tree survey commissioned by the FVH Trust, when the original plan was mooted to build a new Hall adjacent to the Church and since then several alternative sites have been investigated which, for a variety of reasons, some financial, some related to planning and other issues have fallen by the wayside.
Obviously costs have been incurred but very few people to have any idea what sums have been involved, what future outlay will be required to bring the project to completion and just how much of the proceeds from the Sale of the Folly are still available to finance the ongoing charges.
As most villagers are aware the Farringdon Village Hall Trust is administered by the members of the Farringdon Parish Council although they are technically, entirely separate organisations and, presumably, the Parish Councillors wear different hats and rearrange the chairs when they switch from VH Trust business to local politics and vice versa.
This is not an unique situation but it can create problems and the Charity Commission produce lengthy documents giving guidance and advice on procedure for those bodies in this situation, to avoid any conflict of interest and any potential financial pitfalls in these circumstances.
Following the concern expressed at the meeting the trust has promised to make more financial information available by email to those who added the appropriate information on the day and this will presumably apply to those who request it on the second open day on Saturday afternoon.
From conversations on the day there seem to be four schools of though about the project listed below but not in any particular order!
- Those entirely in favour of the project
- Those totally against for a variety of reasons.
- The undecided, who need more information and some sort of business plan to assess the viability of the scheme before they make up their mind.
- Those who don't want the New Village Hall but favour a smaller community centre adjacent to the Church.
Whether the New Hall will become a reality is still in the balance, but whatever the result of the Yes/No referendum here is picture of what it might look like!