Although temporarily resident in the western extremities of the country () your reporter was able to listen in, and occasionally watch the meeting held by the Farringdon Village Hall Trust on 17th June at Lower Woodside Farm.
It has taken some years to negotiate a potential plot for a New Hall and despite several setbacks the Trust has settled on a site on the West side of the A32.
A number of the residents of Gosport Road properties adjacent to the proposed site were more concerned about impact the erection of a building and the effect the accelerated surface water run-off from both the new Hall and the car park area might have on the dwellings along the Eastern side of A32 than the possible options for a future Village Hall.
Although reassurances were made that the architects involved were well qualified to avoid exacerbating the existing problems it was pointed out that the site is waterlogged when groundwater levels reach the point where water flows over the surface of the A32.
It is possible the work carried out under the flood prevention scheme may have reduced the surface flooding, although no one can be sure until the next time the groundwater levels rise above the critical level.
The discussion then moved on to just what would be required of a new Village Hall and, more importantly, what would be financially viable.
Both the Badminton Court and Village Shop options were raised and bearing in mind past meetings some years ago, when there was a possibility the Old Folly might be refurbished, I was put in mind of an intentional misquotation, often repeated by a former resident of Farringdon that it was a case of “. . . ” .
Both Badminton and Shop options might have some support, but, as was pointed out at the meeting, the first requires a substantial floor space and more importantly a high ceiling so you have a very substantial building, especially when you consider that, in addition to the court space any new Hall will also need adequate toilet and kitchen facilities.
While a high ceiling might be good for badminton players it is not the best option for efficient heating and acoustics which could be a problem for the Parish Council, WI or any other organisation holding discussions or meetings and a high ceiling would make it difficult to isolate one activity from another with internal partitions.
A village shop was another option that resurfaced () but again, a shop would need more than a rota of volunteers to serve customers.
A retail space needs a dedicated and secure area, a manager to run the business, storage space and various facilities to comply with the current legislation.
Now it maybe that there are enough potential volunteers who would take on these roles or a faint possibility that some retailer or company might be persuaded to rent space from the Village Hall Management but whether a shop would be viable financially is by no means a certainty and the costs of running the Hall will still be have to be met from rental income, so the idea that the shop could be subsidised by the Village Hall is unlikely to gather much support.
The suggestion that the building should be constructed with an internal space that can be easily divided with partitions seemed a sensible option but just how large the internal space would need to be is a subject that will involve some lively discussion over the next few weeks.
Some brave souls will also have to buckle down and manage the bookings, clean the new Hall and ensure that any faults in the building are remedied pretty smartly to avoid loss of income.
One other potential snag is the access from the site onto the A32. A previous application for houses on the site was turned down for various reasons but one major problem was the Highways ruling that the access onto the A32 was unsafe. If I remember correctly, the speed limit at that time was 40 mph and the current 30 mph limit might influence any future decision but whether there is room to give a clear view of traffic approaching from the North for vehicles exiting to the right across the main road is something the architects will have to consider.
So, to sum up, we have a site, a clear sheet of paper for the design and an area that appears to offer space for a New Village Hall.
What compromises will need to be made to make the project a reality will be revealed as the process moves on. We can only hope that in the not too far distant future we can arrive at a decision that will satisfy the majority of the residents of Farringdon.
The Farringdon Village Hall Charitable Trust is canvassing opinions from residents so if you have any ideas or requirements for the new hall contact them by email via the Parish Council website at firstname.lastname@example.org