Hollingbourne Parish Council has as yet received no response from the landlord of the Village Hall that the lease that expired in August 2016 will be renewed. The ongoing uncertainty over the future of the Village Hall is a major problem for the Village Hall Committee who manage the Hall on behalf of the Parish Council and the many organisations and residents that use the Hall on a daily basis.
The landlord of the Hall is EI Group PLC, who also own the three public houses in Hollingbourne, as well as part the Windmill Lane Public Footpath where a development of 10 houses is proposed. It is believed that EI Group PLC, who took over former Whitbread brewery properties, are not renewing the lease as they wish to consider their options if Maidstone Borough Council Planning Committee grant planning permission for the houses which appear substantial in the published plans. The scheme (MBC Reference 16/508436/FULL) is outside of the former Village Envelope and is approached by 3 metre wide Footpath (PROW KH199). The Scheme has been opposed by the Village Hall Committee, the Parish Council, and many others.
UPDATE as of 14th December – An e-mail acknowledgement has been received to the letter (below) and a statement that a meeting is being arranged for 10th January 2018 with the Village Hall Committee. No further information is available.
No reply has been received as of 8th December (the original date of publication on this website) to the following letter that was sent last month to EI Group PLC by the Parish Council:-
Hollingbourne Parish Council
14th November 2017
Mr Ian Garrood – Assets Manager,
EI Group Plc,
3 Monkspath Hall Road,
West Midlands B90 4SJ
Dear Mr Garrood,
RE: HOLLINGBOURNE VILLAGE HALL
Hollingbourne Parish Council is concerned that you have so far been unable to renew the lease on our village hall which expired on 21st August 2016. You will be aware that a 20 year lease was signed with the Parish Council in 1996 and since that time the management of the Village Hall has been delegated to the Village Hall Committee who became a CIO last year.
The Parish Council became the lessees in 1996 because the two of the three original trustees from 1968 were not available at the last lease renewal. The Hall was largely funded by local fund raising organised by a Committee of residents.
Hollingbourne Village Hall has been recently designated as a Community Asset and is used daily by local organisations such as the Women’s Institute, the Pantomime Group, the Short Mat Bowls Club, and by many others. Part of the Village Hall is also a chapel where regular Communion services are held and this part of the building was financed by a donation when other church premises in the Eyhorne Street Conservation was sold some years ago.
Consequently there is some worry in the village that you may not renew the lease which would mean that Hollingbourne would lose an irreplaceable asset which is used daily.
It is understood that you may be holding off issuing a new lease because of the possibility of development alongside Windmill Lane (Public Footpath PROW KH199) and for which you would have to grant an easement to the developers over the 3 metre wide stretch of the Lane alongside the Windmill PH which you also own. The Lane has been maintained over the years by local residents and the Village Hall Committee with some help from KCC Highways who would have to grant permission for the Lane to be closed in order to supply services to the possible development. This may of course affect trade at the Windmill PH and cause inconvenience to local residents.
It is assumed that a similar easement would have to be granted to the developers over the part of the Lane that you do not own as was the case when the Village Hall was built back in 1968. At the time it was understood that the Village Hall would generate business for the Windmill PH and the nearby Sugar Loaves PH and it is believed that this has been the case with mutual benefits for your company and local residents.
The Village Hall Committee has already given up car parking spaces to the Windmill with the result that the Pre-School Group had to move out of the Hall so that their grassed play area at the rear could be used as a car park. This caused some inconvenience at the time to many parents of young children.
It is with regret that the matter of your failure to renew the lease is the subject of this letter and you should be aware that many residents are very worried about your failure in this matter which has not gone unnoticed by the local media who seem to view this as a “David versus Goliath” encounter.
The Hall is very important to Hollingbourne in many ways and just now we are considering the installation of publicly available defibrillators in the village and our advice is that they should be near places where the public congregate such as public houses. We have been advised by Maidstone Borough Council that the fitting of such devices on the outside of listed buildings, such as those in the Eyhorne Street Conservation Area including the Windmill PH, may be difficult so we have been thinking about one on the outside of the Village Hall which would be within the crucial 4 minutes of the Windmill and Sugar Loaves public houses.
On behalf of the Parish Council and local residents I am asking you to agree a long term lease with the Village Hall Committee on acceptable terms without delay so that residents and others can continue to enjoy the use of the Hall and the nearby EI Group public houses.
Thank you in anticipation of your early and attention to this matter. A reply within the next fourteen days would be very much appreciated.
An uncertain future and a possible million pound headache for Hollingbourne!
While there is uncertainty over the future of the Hall it has not been possible for the Village Hall Committee to obtain grants for improvements. In the worst case scenario and the lease was not renewed, the Hall would have to be demolished, possibly at the expense of the Parish Council (and Hollingbourne Council tax-payers) and a new one would have to be built elsewhere if a site could be found. The present Hall can seat just over 100 people in the main room, and has a stage, chapel, kitchen, loos, and a large back stage area. As reported previously on this website using data from https://www.costmodelling.com/building-costs the likely cost of a replacement Hall of the size of the one in Lenham with adequate parking might be about £1.2 million plus land costs. However this is an indicative figure and could vary substantially according the size and design.
The present Hall opened in 1968 and replaced a previous structure close to the church which burnt down in 1965. The first lease from Whitbread ran from 1968 to 1996 with the second one running from 1996 to 2016. The Hall was built with locally raised funds and the lease renewal in 1996 was a formality.
Funds of up to £50,000 are available from Kent County Council for new Village Halls and more details are at https://www.kent.gov.uk/leisure-and-community/community-grants-and-funding/village-and-community-hall-grant-scheme
Pictured below is a poster for the 40th annual Production of the Hollingbourne Pantomime Group in February 2018 which might be the last if the future of the Hall is not secured with a new lease.