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St Ives: New plans to convert church hall into flats opposed

Residents and St Ives Town Council have recommended that plans to convert their "neglected" and "much-valued" Church Hall into new homes be refused.


Concerns have been raised at the possibility of losing their community building, and those living on neighbouring streets complained that the plans would result in a loss of privacy.


Ian Dobson, who lives nearby, believes the historic building should be restored as a "flourishing" church hall and said: "At no point have the congregation of All Saints and the wider community of St Ives been consulted whether they are willing to lose their much-valued Parish Hall.


The Church Hall was purchased from the local authority in 1959 and the last renovation was planned more than thirty years ago and completed in the early 1990s. (Image: Ian Dobson)


"There is no vision or understanding on the part of the applicants for the potential of the substantial size Parish Hall in these changing times of greater social need, for example, for a continuing Food Bank, a community meeting place and as a 'warm space.'


"By its own admission, All Saints has shown neglect for its Parish Hall for the past 30 years and now wants to dispose of it without committing any effort to save and restore it."


The Parochial Church Council's (PCC) original application to convert the Parish Hall into four new homes was rejected by Huntingdonshire District Council in April, mainly due to overdevelopment and overlooking concerns.


The PCC's latest application proposes to convert the community facility on Ramsey Road, St Ives, into three new residential flats, with "no overlooking possible" due to the removal of a first-floor element.


However, one resident living on River Place said that whilst the new application no longer includes a first floor, properties along the street are elevated due to the proximity to the river and is concerned it would still overlook the proposed development.


Another living on Church Terrace added that the occupants of the new unit would pass "within inches" of their kitchen window to access their property.


Why did the Town Council refuse the latest application?

St Ives Town Council voted to refuse the amended application during its planning committee meeting on July 26, echoing Ian's complaint that there has been a lack of consultation, adding that there has been a lack of effort to find alternative funding sources to restore the building.


The Church Hall is currently vacant and would require several new facilities and equipment if it were to be refurbished. (Image: Google)


A statement from the meeting said: "Committee members expressed their conflicted nature on this application; they understand the church's need to raise funds to maintain their primary building but were concerned about the loss of a community resource.


"Members stated that they wished more had been done to raise funding through alternative sources, such as grant funding applications."


According to the PCC's planning application, they believe an estimate of £150,000 would be required to restore the vacant hall, which they say shows signs of rotting.


However, the PCC believe the site is "now inherently unsuitable for community use" and should be redeveloped into flats to generate money to invest in the re-ordering of the parish church.


The planning application explains: "The ample supply of better-placed premises has made it impossible to rent the hall at a realistic rate to justify the investment required."


"There are no parking facilities, and the cycle lane on the hall side of the road makes parking for loading hazardous.


"As a charity, we are duty-bound to manage our assets in the most effective way."


Huntingdonshire District Council have set an internal target date of August 31 to assess and vote on whether or not to pass the PCC's latest planning application.


Source: huntspost.co.uk

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