Town awarded £700k for church hall replacement – amid concerns over ‘one-sided deal’

The current St Michael's Church Rooms would be demolished for a new building Picture: ANDREW HIRST

The current St Michael's Church Rooms would be demolished for a new building Picture: ANDREW HIRST - Credit: Archant

A £700,000 grant has been awarded towards the rebuilding of a Suffolk church hall – but critics say the project still faces “fundamental issues”.

Framlingham Town Council’s successful bid for Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) funds would be used to replace St Michael’s Church Rooms, which have begun to deteriorate.

The project was first put forward alongside grander plans for a new £1.5m community hall.

While the larger project faced difficulties over its two preferred sites – near Brook Lane and Framlingham Sports Club – which saw it put on hold, the church hall scheme has continued apace.

Designs have been prepared to replace the building on its existing footprint and several site surveys have taken place.

But at the latest council meeting Framlingham Residents’ Association chairman Christopher Sharpe criticised the project – saying “fundamental issues” were being ignored.

Mr Sharpe claimed that while community centre designs had faced criticism that its 60 parking spaces were insufficient, the St Michael’s scheme offered just 15.

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He asked: “Why are the same criteria not being applied?”

While he acknowledged the St Michael’s project was not intended to replace the larger community centre proposal, Mr Sharpe questioned whether it could have unintended consequences.

He suggested the project could “derail” future attempts for a fully fledged community centre and asked whether the council had considered its potential impact on future CIL bids made to Suffolk Coastal District Council.

“Surely we have to weigh up the longer term impact of going down this route,” he said.

Mr Sharpe also queried the partnership behind the project, which will see the town council pay for the new building but have to lease the site from the parochial church council.

“It‘s looking like a one-sided deal,” he added.

Councillor Gary Kitching, who has been involved with the project, said Mr Sharpe raised important issues but assured him they would be dealt with.

“These are all issues that have to be addressed before we make these decisions,” he said.

Mr Kitching also thanked everyone who had been involved in the CIL successful bid.

“There’s still a lot of work to be done,” he added.

“But at least that uncertainly is out of the way.”

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