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Folly sale contract signed - Updated May 2nd 2015

The sale of Massey's Folly came one step nearer completion at an extraordinary meeting of the Farringdon Parish Council on Friday evening (1st May).

Although the signing of the sale contract was the main item on the agenda the meeting began with a tribute from acting Council Chairman, Gary Oakley to the late Mike Edwards who passed away last month. (Gary's Tribute will be printed in full in the official minutes of the meeting)

The main business of the evening was the signing of the sale contract for Massey's Folly, the final act in a long running saga that has been simmering away for many years.

The initial proposal to sell off the Folly, made some twelve years ago, was met with almost universal opposition from Farringdon residents and the Village Hall was packed to capacity for a series of meetings to discuss the various options to save the Folly.

Riding on this wave of enthusiasm a Massey's Folly Preservation Trust was formed with the intention of purchasing the western end of the Folly, which formerly housed the Village School, then owned and until the sale is completed, it remains in the ownership the AndraeTrust.

The building featured in a BBC "Restoration" programme in 2006, which featured many villagers as extras, (including the late Mike Findlay in moustache and cap) and it was about that time that enthusiasm began to wane, as it became apparent that the efforts of the two main "activists" was not actually raising much in the way of funds and while some grants were awarded the restrictions imposed prohibited any contribution to finance much needed repairs and were used to produce a case study reams of paperwork and a questionnaire.

Personality clashes also added to the general disillusion and Farringdon residents were bombarded with questionnaires and counter questionnaires rushed out in advance of the opposition, which, as frequently happens in such cases, featured questions and options designed to produce the result desired by the authors.

One version indicated was a majority in favour of a New Village Hall, (Without any indication as to whether the signatories were actually prepared to make any financial contribution to the construction of same) another suggested there was equally strong support to proceed with the restoration campaign, with all sorts of fanciful requirements for renovation of the Folly, including the perennial desire for any design to incorporate a Village Shop (Organic in this incarnation), despite the fact that the original Shop had closed due to lack of support.

Following an acrimonious meeting in the Village Hall, the subsequent departure of the two leading lights of the Massey's Folly Preservation Trust , left that organisation in severe array and it fell to Gillian McCallum to pick up the pieces and sort out the finances in an effort to revive the organisation and proceed with the purchase of the western half as grants for restoration were only available if the entire building was under single ownership.

The Preservation Trust was eventually restored but by then the problem with building led to the Village Hall being closed until the necessary repairs had taken place.

The then Village Hall Management Committee was heavily biased towards the sale option but for various reasons turned down a serious offer to redevelop the Folly and provide a site for an replacement building and a finally forced the sale option when the decision was taken that it was "too risky" to allow the Preservation Trust to take ownership of the Hall in the hope it could raise sufficient funds to purchase the western end.

Eventually, there was no realistic alternative and the decision to sell the Folly was passed.

Parish Councillor Peter Durrant assisted by others then entered into negotiations and finally achieved an agreement with the Andrae Trust which resulted an unconditional offer of £832,000 for the purchase of the Folly being unanimously accepted by the Parish Council and the Andrae trust. 46 % of the proceeds (after the payment of fees and charges) will be transferred into a new account as the funds are still subject to the rules of the Village Hall Charity and are reserved for furhtering the aims of that charity.

Negotiations continued and at this extraordinary council meeting, in front of a small audience, Councillor Durrant (rt) and Vice Chairman Gary Oakley, seen here awaiting the next copy from Parish Clerk Emma Dillnut, signed the various copies so that the exchange can proceed, possibly before the New Parish Council assembles for their first meeting on the 20th May.

As the sale contracts were signed your reporter was half expecting an appearance by the ghost of Vecta Mitchell a vociferous opponent of the Folly sale in her lifetime and if anybody was capable of returning from the other side Vecta was certainly a prime candidate.

The meeting closed with an expression of thanks for Gary for the untiring efforts of the retiring Councillors, Chair Caroline Roe, and the stalwarts of the Planning Committee, Honor Garrard and Planning Chairman, Jeremy Cowans. Gary Oakley is also retiring this year so when the New Council returns a new Chair, Vice Chair and Chair of the Planning Committee will have to be elected from the nine successful candidates.

There are Ten candidates for the nine seats on the Parish Council and you can vote for nine or less of the candidates at the Election which will be held in tandem with the General Election on Thursday 7th May a full list of candidates can be found here.

The Village Hall will definitely remain available until the end of June and possibly a a little longer depending on the time taken to approve plans for the redevelopment of the Folly. The newly elected Parish Council will have to grapple with the tricky decisions involved with the possible construction of, and obtaining a suitable site for, a new Village Hall.



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