Monday, 18 November 2019

Villagers oppose five new homes on church hall site

RESIDENTS have criticised plans for housing on the site of a former church hall in Charvil.

Horizon Partnering has applied for permission to build five three-
bedroom houses on the land off Park View Drive North, where Jubilee Hall stands.

The hall, which used to be run by St Andrew’s Church and was used by a pre-school and a number of community groups, was closed in 2017 and the site sold to raise money for a house for the church’s youth minister Chris West.

Horizon Partnering says the building is in a bad state of disrepair and should be demolished to make way for the new homes, four of which would be semi-detached.

But villagers say they want to keep the hall, saying that it was sold without residents being properly consulted and that Charvil lacks this kind of community facility.

Brenda Cowdery, of Gingells Farm Road, said the land was gifted to the parish in the Fifties “for the specific purpose of building a hall for the spiritual and social needs of the community”.

She added: “Assurance was given by Charvil Parish Council at a general meeting in approximately 2012 that change of use of the hall would never be allowed.”

John James, of Park View Drive North, said: “With the inevitable expansion of the village, it is regrettable that Charvil will lose Jubilee Hall as a community facility. I was unaware, as probably most people were, of the work carried out on behalf of the church on the future of the hall and would have expected all villagers to be consulted by letter and have an opportunity to input their views.

“Had the community been aware of the price of the hall there could have been support for retaining the hall as a community facility.”

William Jones, also of Park View Drive North, said: “This is the only real community facility north of the A4 in Charvil. All community services have been historically focused on this property, so the loss of this facility will be keenly felt and it can’t easily be replaced, if at all.”

Julie Bennett, who ran the Charvil senior residents club at the hall, said: “Charvil has expanded by three to four times since the hall was built by local public subscription donations in 1952.

“Charvil is now, I think, larger than Sonning and given its size is not overendowed with the all-important places that can cement community friendship and cohesion.”

Residents also complained that the proposed development would be too cramped for the site and would cause issues with traffic and parking as well as problems with overlooking neighbouring properties due to the loss of trees.

Mark Jarman, of Park View Drive North, said: “On-street parking will increase as a direct result of the new-builds and the football teams now using St Patrick’s recreation ground at the weekend.

“The proposed housing is very dense. One imagines this is to maximise profit but on such a small plot surely three properties is the most that can be reasonably accommodated without too great an impact on existing residents.”

Charlotte Peachey, also of Park View Drive North, said: “We feel the plot of land is not big enough for the proposed five houses.

“It all looks very crammed in and not in character with the row of houses already there. No thought has gone into the privacy of all the houses around the plot.”

Tina McKay, of St Patrick’s Avenue, said: “Having five family homes on the plot would negatively impact the current peacefulness of the area.

“There would undoubtedly be additional noise and disturbance along with an increase in traffic and parking.”

Charvil Parish Council has also objected to the plans.

It said: “The council manages the other two community facilities in the village, one of which is nearly always fully booked, and the other which is rapidly growing in popularity despite its restrictions.

“As it has become clear that there is a pressing need for a further community building in Charvil to house the growing uniformed groups and a pre-school, it would be damaging to the community to demolish such a facility.” In a planning statement, Horizon Partnering says the building is in “a state of quite serious deterioration” with significant problems involving the roof and floor, both of which contain elements of asbestos.

Its condition has become worse since the hall closed due to vandalism and has had to be boarded up.

The statement adds: “We aspire to create a thriving, flourishing place, where residents engage with the locality, are keen to connect with each other and with the area and are inspired to look after and maintain the high quality of their surroundings.”

Churchwarden Perry Mills said the hall had been empty since 2016 after many of the clubs left due to its poor condition.

The church, which covers Charvil, Sonning and Sonning Eye, now uses the Ark building in Sonning, which was opened in May 2017, for many of its community activities.

He said: “The hall is surplus to requirements hence why we left it empty and unmaintained as the use was so infrequent.

“We spent thousands of pounds each year just having it sat there and as trustees we have a duty to act responsibly with public funds.”

He said to replace the floor, door and windows would cost about £20,000, adding: “Quite simply we could not justify this expense when we have no regular users.”

A decision on the application will be made by Wokingham Borough Council.

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