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Published by Rothay House, Mayfield Road, Eastrea

Eastrea Village News No 19: June 2009

WE WON! We are proud to report that Eastrea Village Hall Trust has won the appeal against Fenland District Council to the UnderSecretary of State. Eastrea Village Hall has at last been approved. So, can we afford to build it? The Trust thinks so — and, all being well, work should start later this summer. The hearing took place in the council chamber of Whittlesey Town Council on 2nd June and the room was crowded. Objectors were there in force, so the case

for both sides was explored in great detail. These are extracts from the Inspector on the unreasonable conduct of our District Council: “Until the hearing itself, it was far from clear that the Council considered the combined effect of both the village hall and the houses to be incompatible with the surroundings. “Until then it appeared to be simply a matter of the number of houses. The Council's earlier evidence on this matter was therefore inadequate. “Furthermore, there had been

to present their views. He was Mr Andrew Brand from the Development Planning Partnership in Bedford, and who was once a planning officer at Fenland. As the Inspector’s report shows, Mr Brand tried to bring in arguments on the day (which, the Inspector found, did not hold water anyway) and Mr Brand’s under“The District Council needed standing of the situation was reasonable planning grounds in inadequate. order to ignore that advice. It is unusual for an authority to They produced no sound evihave brought in an outsider, bedence before the hearing, and cause they cannot defend their even then nothing of substance own position. Or should that be to substantiate their highways ‘bought in’ rather than ‘brought’? reason for refusal. I therefore It’s we, the ratepayers, who will consider the Council acted have to pay the Council’s bill for unreasonably . . .” their adventure. The cost will be Fenland felt unable to support thousands, and has already cost their own case against Eastrea, Eastrea the chance of a so they had to use a consultant £500,000 grant. no previous suggestions that the hall should be located on one of the alternative sites previously considered by the Village Hall Trust; another omission from the earlier evidence. In these respects, I consider the Council did act unreasonably.

THEY TURNED DOWN OUR HALL, BUT SEE WHAT COUNCILLORS APPROVED It is Fenland Planning that is responsible for the cars that obstruct the entrance to our village. Do not just blame the car dealer. It is Fenland that spent our money on the daffodils which Council tended there for years, yet gave permission for covering the area with second-hand vehicles.

roof at over 100 mph. These could easily have killed an occupant (or someone driving on the King’s Dyke road).

The same councillors gave permission for the wind turbine that shed heavy shards Councillors dismissed the proof solid ice through a house posed village hall access as

‘dangerous’—although it had been agreed with the Highways Dept in Cambridge. Yet the same people voted to allow a stream of HGVs to use the former concrete factory,

even though that is situated on a bend. These decisions do not stand scrutiny. They should ALL be investigated.

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FINDING A NEW DESIGN Fenland have lost Eastrea our chance of half a million pounds from the Lottery, but we have always had a contingency plan in reserve, in case this happened. And we can still manage to build a hall that will meet some of the basic needs. Our architect at Rose Homes, Mr John Hodgetts, has been working on a room layout that offers a room for activities (like a school club or art classes) plus changing rooms, an office and a store, alongside a bar, a cafe and the main hall. The layout gives us a new main event hall measuring 180 square metres, which is a little bigger than the original hall (170 sq m), so we have a suitable design in spite of everything.

And Yes, We Can Afford It With planning permission delayed, and the Community Fund of the Lottery shutting down at the end of their programme, plans for our original design had to be abandoned. Our developers, Rose Homes, under their new Chairman Mr Robert Gregory, have

promised us £250,000 to add to the Trust’s contribution of £45,000, giving us a total building fund of £295,000. John Hodgetts’s proposed design (above) offers us a fine scaled-down hall. During the next two weeks the Trust will make changes to optimize the design and agree a final set of

specifications. Roses will construct the building for an agreed total of £290,000— so we do have enough funds available to get the job done. The £5,000 surplus is not nearly enough for safety, and we are now seeking further financial support from the local sources. But the fact remains—Eastrea can build its village hall!

GRANT NEWS Are you a new student (of any age) next term? Do you have young children off to school with uniforms to buy? Eastrea residents can apply for grants from The Storers. Call 350 888 for confidential details. Eastrea students can apply for a bursary or a support grant towards the cost of studying. These important student awards are announced in the press, though all the personal grants are handled in strict confidence. Call us if you think this might be helpful for you.

(Above) The Village Hall Committee, Christmas 1977

The Eastrea Village Hall Trust’s Business Plan (above) contains details of the site, its history, village surveys, uses for the hall, cost breakdowns for construction and all running costs over five years, plus maps. It runs to 100 graphs and photos and 12,000 words. It was never even read by the opposing councillors . . . but the work in this plan is repeatedly referred to by the Inspector in his rebuttal of the Council’s case. The success of the Eastrea appeal featured on the BBC TV ‘breakfast show’ on the morning of Thursday 11 June.

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