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New Village Hall Proposals – The Facts

Radley has been offered a new village hall and sports field. Despite the inadequacies of the existing village hall and uncertainties over its future, the proposals have however received a mixed response.

Background

Radley Village Hall was erected in 1977 on the former site of the Radley College vegetable gardens as a replacement for the much smaller village hall built in Lower Radley in 1924/25. The houses next to the Village Hall in Gooseacre were built subsequently, as were the other houses nearby with the exception of the houses owned by Radley College along Foxborough Road and some cottages in Norfolk Close. The hall was extended in the 1990s to provide an additional area at one side, a refurbished kitchen and a disabled toilet.

 

The land where the Village Hall stands and the adjoining playing field are leased to the Village Hall Management Committee and the Parish Council by Radley College, for a small annual rent. There are 28 years left to run on this lease (from the end of the year). The Village Hall Management Committee of volunteers is responsible for the Hall, its upkeep and hire (not the Parish Council). The separate sports pavilion on the playing field was built by Radley football clubs and the Parish Council, opening in 1999. The playing field and sports pavilion are available for hire from the Parish Council.

 

During 2007, complaints about noise from the Village Hall led to the Vale of White Horse District Council imposing a Noise Abatement Order and requiring work to improve the Hall’s sound-proofing. An appeal was launched in August 2007 to help raise the money.

 
New double-glazed windows and sound-proofing panels were installed during autumn 2007 and the Noise Abatement Order was revoked. The Parish Council effectively underwrote the funding for the soundproofing, with additional funding being provided by the Vale of the White Horse District Council and others. However, conditions imposed by the district council means it is no longer viable for the Village Hall to operate a licensed bar – a previously important source of revenue.

A new village hall?

Given the concerns about noise and the age of the existing building, the Parish Council set up a Working Party in October 2007 in a long-term project to advise on the feasibility of a new Village Hall and to look at needs over the next ten years and beyond.

 

During discussions about the future, Radley College suggested the possibility of providing a new village hall with integral sports pavilion and two playing fields on a site next to Radley Primary School on Church Road. But to wholly fund this project, there would need to some new housing on the current Gooseacre site.

 

Both sites involved in this proposal are in the Oxford Green Belt, and it would require dispensation from the Secretary of State for any development on them to take place. This means that the plan can succeed only with the support of the people of Radley.

 

A well-attended, and at times heated, public meeting called by the Parish Council was held on Friday 11 July to hear the details of the proposal and to seek initial views from parish residents. Opinion was divided. Some people saw merit in the proposals. Others, mainly from the immediate locality of the existing facilities, were strongly against the move, with views expressed against both building houses on the Gooseacre site and the suggested location of the new village hall.

The Save Radley Campaign

This campaign is opposed to the development in Gooseacre and locating a new village hall near the school. A leaflet outlining the campaign’s arguments was distributed to Radley households during early August 2008. The leaflet claims that the proposal masks an attempt to change Radley into a suburb of Abingdon and calls on residents to stop Green Belt erosion and ‘say NO to a new Abingdon suburb’. The campaign can be contacted at:

 
Save Radley Campaign
5 Norfolk Close, Radley
Tel: 01235 539700

The Facts

So what are facts about the Village Hall and the proposal by Radley College?

1. Radley needs a new, better and bigger village hall. The existing village hall is well past its sell-by date. The money recently spent on it is a stopgap. A lot more would need to be spent to maintain the hall well into the future. Even if considered cost-effective, no source of such funding has been identified. As things stand at the moment, the existing village hall cannot pay its way.

2. The existing playing field is oversubscribed. Additional playing field space would also benefit the community.

3. Radley College has offered to provide Radley with a new village hall with integrated sports pavilion and land capable of accommodating at least two football pitches, and the freehold to both. The value of the offer, as it stands, is estimated to be in excess of £1 million.

4. However this offer is conditional upon Radley College obtaining permission to develop the land currently occupied by the existing hall and sports field. This doesnot include the land beyond to the south accessed from Thrupp Lane, which is currently also used as a sports field.

5. Both sites – the site of the proposed new hall and the playing field in Gooseacre – are in the Oxford Green Belt.

6. Planning permission to develop either site would be contrary to planning policy with respect to the Green Belt. Therefore planning permission is extremely unlikely to be given unless the development can be shown to be of benefit to the local community and has significant support from that community. The Parish Council has no powers over the planning issues and the need to defend the Green Belt from development is a paramount consideration of the local planning authority (VoWHDC).

7. Even if the money could be raised (a large six figure sum) to create a new village hall on the current site in Gooseacre, the existing site is unsuitable. It is too near to housing and the site is not large enough. A new hall meeting the desired specification would have a much larger footprint, which would probably mean building on the existing car park (already inadequate) or on the playing field (making it unusable for football, etc). Green Belt policies would still be an obstacle to this option. In addition, the shortness of the remaining term of the lease from Radley College would not justify the level of investment required to create a new village hall on the Gooseacre site.

The next step?

Following the public meeting, the Parish Council will be considering the Radley College proposal further.

 

The Parish Council currently has an open mind with regard to the proposal and is unlikely to come to a view until the details have been fully set out and the general view of the whole parish is known. The Parish Council has no intention of going against the majority view of the parish.

 
While supporting the proposal in so far as the benefits of the new hall and sport field are concerned, the Parish Council has reservations about the proposal to develop the existing sports field. The Parish Council is a member of the Oxford Green Belt Network and would almost certainly not wish to breach Green Belt policy so as to create a precedent that might allow general development on other Green Belt sites.

Your views are wanted

The Parish Council is interested to hear the views of residents on the Radley College proposal and on the future of the Village Hall in general. Please send them to:

 

Sally Raven, Clerk to Radley Parish Council
9 Cleveland Drive, Cowley, Oxford OX4 3HA
Tel: 01865 774776
E-mail: clerk@radleyvillage.org.uk

 

Other links relevant to this posting                               

Herald 9 September 2008

Herald 3 October 2008

Permanent link to this article: http://www.radleyvillage.org.uk/new-village-hall-proposals-the-facts/