New officers are apparently being appointed to the Farringdon Village Hall Charitable Trust as moves are afoot to form a new, independent, Board of Trustees that would no longer be administered by the Farringdon Parish Councillors in a different hat!
First, for any of those new residents who may not be aware of the story so far, a brief recap of the “Farringdon Village Hall Saga”.
In 2013, a couple of years before Massey’s Folly was sold for development, the Farringdon Parish Council were appointed as the sole trustee of the Farringdon Village Hall Charitable Trust. This transfer of trusteeship was put in place to protect the previous trustees from any financial responsibility should an official notice be issued requiring full restoration of the Grade 2 listed building, part of which was then used as the Village Hall.
The building was sold for development in 2015 and, after establishing a need for a new public space in the village, several plans were put forward by then FVHC to use the proceeds of the sale to provide a new Village Hall.
The original intention was to utilise space in the Church yard but this plan had to be abandoned following a tree survey which indicated that there was insufficient clear space to accommodate a new building.
Following this initial setback, the first project presented for public consultation, was to construct a new Village Community Centre on the grass area to the west of the Church Yard. Although this project was well supported, the South Downs National Park Planning Authority put a spanner in the works when they refused permission to build on the site proposed.
Other sites were considered by the FVHT for the new Hall. A brown field site was discussed but abandoned on grounds of cost and provisional planning permission was obtained for a site on the South side of Shirnall Hill but the FVHT were unable to reach an agreement with the landowners. Other potential sites were also investigated but were dismissed for variety of reasons.
In 2020, Farringdon Parish Council/Village Hall Trust Chairman, Clive Elderton and Vice Chairman Peter Durrant, both of whom been instrumental in negotiations up to this point, resigned, followed not long after by the resignation of Nadine Farris the newly appointed Vice Chair and Tony Batley standing down as Chairman.
David Horton took over as Chair with David Craig as Vice Chair a situation which has continued to the present day despite a short period of confusion earlier this year when both Chair and Vice Chair resigned and then reinstated themselves!
Incidentally 2020 was the last year in which there was an Annual General Meeting of the Farringdon Village Hall Trust Charity
The current proposal is to build a new, much lager Hall on a currently vacant plot on the A32 Gosport Road, to the north of the Golden Pheasant car park.
A decision is expected on the detailed application (SDNP/22/01621/FUL) very shortly.
It is generally accepted that Farringdon is in need of some sort of Village Hall/Community Space, what is certainly not clear is whether the current proposal is supported by a majority of Village Residents on the electoral roll, who are by definition, members of the Village Hall Trust.
It appears that the intention is to separate the Charitable Trust from the Parish Council and the Trust will assume an independent identity with some new officers appointed to the Trustees.
Whether such trustees can be appointed without ratification from an Annual or Special General Meeting is a moot point although an AGM must be due as over two years have passed since the last public meeting of the Trust.
Although the move was frustrated, following the reservations expressed by several Trustees, some officers of the Trust wanted to push through the purchase of the site on the south side of the A32 in advance of the Planning Decision, although it appears the purchase option will be available for over a year.
It is very difficult to know exactly how the Trust intends to proceed as, with the exception of the two “Consultation Events” held in the Church in the summer (). there has been no AGM or Special General Meeting since the aforementioned 2020 AGM held in May of that year.
The deeds of the Trust were drawn up in 1960 when there were only a few members,( ) so at the time this clause, enabling members to request a Special General Meeting, was drawn up, 10 members were probably more than 10% of the Total membership! The Clause reads as follows:
. . .The Trustees must call a Special General Meeting if requested to do so by at least ten members or one tenth of the membership, whichever is the greater.
The request must state the nature of the business that is to be discussed.
If the Trustees fail to hold the meeting within twenty one days of the request, the members may proceed to call a special General Meeting but in doing so they must comply with the provision of these provisions. . .
Earlier this year, for a Referendum that wasn't, () voting slips were sent out to 554 trust members so, presumably, if the above rule is applied today, around 60 Trust members would have to request a Special General Meeting to force a public meeting within 21 Days.
The initial publication of detailed planning application also caused some controversy as the Planning Authority deleted a post objecting to some objectors, which was held to be in breach of the current guidelines!
So where do we go from here, it would appear that there are to be new appointments to the Trustees which must surely be ratified at an AGM as should any decision to go ahead with the current plan which has also never been presented at a public meeting of the Trust Membership.
One major item which also needs more public consultation and clarification is the business plan, which is now, at the very least, nine months out of date.
When published, the cost of the construction, landscaping and fitting out of the current plan was estimated to be in excess of £780,000. With the current financial situation, this figure will need considerable revision to bring it up to date.
The saga continues!