Parish Council to write to EI Group PLC regarding Village Hall lease renewal.

Following meetings between the Hollingbourne Parish Council and representatives of the Village Hall Committee, who also attended the November Parish Council meeting on 13th November, the Parish Council is to write to EI Group PLC in support of the renewal of the Village Hall lease which expired on 21st August 2016. EI Group PLC, formerly Enterprises Inns PLC who were once part of the Whitbread group of companies, are the landlords of the Village Hall and the three Hollingbourne public houses. 

EI Group PLC have declined to renew the lease pending the outcome of the planning application to build 10 houses alongside Windmill Lane which runs alongside the Windmill PH and which leads to the Village Hall and Grove Mill Farm. It is part owned by EI Group PLC, is only 3 metres wide in places, and is a Public Footpath (PROW KH199). The Footpath was originally used by monks and others on the way to Leeds Castle.

The proposed development, which is outside of the former Village Envelope and next to HS1, has been opposed by Hollingbourne Parish Council, the Village Hall Committee, and numerous local residents. KCC Highways have publicly expressed reservations about the safety of pedestrians and the KCC has requested an archaeological survey before any works commences on the site which has no services. The installation of services is likely to cause major disruption locally.

The Hall was opened in 1968 following a two year fund raising effort by the village following a fire at another Hall close to the church. Whitbread granted a 28 year lease which expired in 1996 when the lease was transferred to the Parish Council with the management of the Hall delegated to the Village Hall Committee. This was a 20 year lease that expired last year. Over the years the Hall, which is used daily by local organisations, has been much improved although some of the designated parking has been transferred to the Windmill PH and the space at the back of the Hall had to be turned into car parking causing the Pre-School Group to move to the Cardwell Pavilion.

Part of the Hall is a chapel, used for a weekly Communion service, which was financed by the sale of church premises on what is now the Pavings. One further improvement that the Parish Council is considering is the installation of a public defibrillator on the outside of the Hall which is located close to the Windmill and Sugar Loaves and within the critical four minute time zone for effective use in the event of a cardiac arrest. Other sites in the village are being considered but advice received by the Parish Council suggest that public houses tend to be places where incidents occur.

Although EI Group PLC have accepted the rent since August 2016, they have made it clear that they are not prepared to renew the lease until such time as the planning application for the 10 houses is resolved. This has led the Village Hall Committee and the Parish Council to consider the possibility that the granting of the planning permission will set a precedent for further development in Windmill Lane which could be on the site of the Village Hall.

It must be noted that when the Village Hall was originally built an access easement for vehicles had to be obtained from Whitbread for their part of the Lane which runs approximately from Eyhorne Street to the double wooden doors at the rear of the Windmill. The next stretch of the Lane, which is maintained by local residents and the Hall Committee, to the Village Hall is owned by another landowner and and a further easement had to be obtained so that vehicles could get to the Hall.

Following a request from the Village Hall Committee, Maidstone Borough Council has designated the Village Hall as a “Community Asset” which would give the Committee first rights for a period of six months if EI Group chose to sell the property at a price of their own choosing.

Legal advice received by the Parish Council and the Village Hall Committee, suggests that the EI Group could give notice to the Parish Council to quit the Hall and to clear the site at Hollingbourne’s expense which would be a major problem. This would leave Hollingbourne without a Hall while the Cardwell Pavilion is too small for most events and is already used most days of the week. Last year the Village Hall Committee became a Charitable Incorporated Organisation (CIO).

Initial enquiries suggest that, excluding land costs, the cost of construction for a typical community hall as of October 2017 according to https://www.costmodelling.com/building-costs is £1460 per square metre. The fairly new Lenham Community Hall which might be bigger than what Hollingbourne needs is 750 square metres and this would cost £1,095,000. Car parking for 50 cars would take up 700 metres at £90 or £63,000. Therefore there are significant expense concerns if Hollingbourne was to lose a much used asset and there are no obvious locations at present for a new Hall.

At the time of writing Maidstone Borough Council is yet to set a date for the Planning Meeting which will consider the Windmill Lane planning application for the ten detached houses which are expected to sell for £750,000 to £1 million. Local Borough Councillor Patrik Garten has “called in” the application so it will be considered by the Committee and not by a Planning Officer although the site is now in the Local Plan for development despite objections from the Parish Council and others. When the meeting is held it will be attended by representatives of the Parish Council. In the application it appears that the developer will have to pay make any Section 106 payments including those for school places for the benefit of Harrietsham. More details are at http://www.maidstone.gov.uk/residents/planning/planning-application-search and the application reference number is 17/503118/FULL.

As and when a response is received from EI Group, it is intended to publish the reply on this website.

Pictured below is the Village Hall with the Windmill PH Car Park which was formerly shared with the Village Hall.

Hollingbourne Village with Windmill PH car park to the left.