Fringe Box



Letter: What Is Happening To Ripley Village Hall and Why?

Published on: 19 Nov, 2017
Updated on: 18 Nov, 2017

Ripley Village Hall

From John Perkins

Ripley Village Hall (RVH) have submitted a planning application for demolition of the existing hall and construction of a replacement.

Guildford Borough Council issued a letter dated 9th November (last Thursday) giving 21 days from then for comments.

Details of the application were not available for viewing on the GBC website until the morning of Tuesday 14th because of “a website error”. To date (1600hrs on the 15th), no site notice has been posted either. GBC planners say that they will accept comments beyond the notice date and up until the actual review of the application in late December.

The application includes “ancillary building including construction of two one bedroom flats for social renting”.

According to an article in the autumn edition of the Ripley Parish Council newsletter, the new hall will cost “in the region of £1.4 million”. This despite consistent estimates in the past and the figure given at a public meeting earlier in the year, giving the total cost as approximately £1 million. I have been told that the difference is due to VAT and to two new additional rooms.

I would like to use this forum to ask the RVH trustees the following:

  • Will they explain the addition of more than £200,000 in VAT to the overall cost?
  • Why do they intend to build flats on the site, whatever their stated purpose?
  • Who will pay for the construction of those flats?
  • How will ownership of the flats be retained by RVH and therefore by the owners of the site?
  • Why have two new rooms been added to the plans that were shown to the public?
  • What are those rooms for?
  • How do the flats and new rooms benefit the people of Ripley and Send Marsh?
  • Why have they not consulted the residents of the area of benefit as to what they want of their community hall?

Gill Haig-Brown responded

Thank you for passing on these questions.

They are all very easy to answer and exactly the reason we are hosting stalls at two imminent Ripley events.

We will be at Ripley Christmas Fair on Sunday 3rd December and The Ripley Farmers Market on Saturday 9th December. We will have the proposed plans and we will be there specifically to answer any questions but also collecting funding for the Big Christmas Give, where all donations will be matched funded and therefore doubled.

We will, in addition, be holding an open event at the Village Hall, and this date will be advised.

We welcome all residents to come along and ask questions of the Trustees and also donate to this very worthy cause.

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Responses to Letter: What Is Happening To Ripley Village Hall and Why?

  1. John Perkins Reply

    November 20, 2017 at 8:50 am

    If the questions are so easy to answer then why not do so, now, in this forum? December will be too late. Both events mentioned are beyond the official cut-off date for comments to the application.

    Perhaps I can answer one of the questions for Mrs Haigh-Brown. VAT on new building is normally zero-rated, but if, as she proposes, the old building is not demolished first then there is a liability for tax. £220,000 is a lot of money to pay just to keep the customer satisfied.
    The site and building are community assets belonging to the residents of Ripley and Send Marsh, the Area of Benefit.

    A notice letter was sent by GBC to some 20 nearby properties, but perhaps it should have been sent to all members of the Area of Benefit as they are all directly affected.

    The architects state in the application that they have given requisite notice to all the owners, but in fact only informed RVH CIO as the freeholder. That is the Trustees informed only themselves.

    There is still no site notice of the application.

  2. John Perkins Reply

    November 24, 2017 at 3:03 pm

    Although I have no objection to the replacement of the Ripley Village Hall, I do object to the planning application and, in particular, to the specific design, which I believe has not been properly notified to all affected parties, is not suitable for purpose, is a misuse of funds and contravenes Charity Commission guidelines.

    Additionally, the reasons for my object are:

    1. Residents of the Area of Benefit have not been notified of the application.
    Ripley Village Hall belongs to the people of Ripley and Send Marsh. The Trustees should have notified every household of their application, but only notified the CIO (themselves). GBC notified 20 local residents. The site notice was not posted until 22nd November, leaving only a week for comments.

    2. Building two first floor flats is over-development and an inappropriate use of funds.
    The flats are an unnecessary over-development, increase the total size of the hall by about 25% and do not add anything of value for the local community.
    Their presence will cause problems for trustees in future when tenants acquire a right to buy or the leaseholds are sold. (The CIO will have no right to determine the type of tenant, so their assertion that they are for “social renting” is meaningless.)
    The flats are a misuse of charity funds, however laudable it might seem. There is no indication of how much these flats will cost to build, nor how much additional costs are incurred in making the hall itself structurally able to support them, nor whether these extra costs will be met separately or subsumed into the general building costs.
    Building the flats contravenes Charity Commission guidance, which states that parts of the hall should not be permanently annexed to any particular purpose if it disadvantages other users. Groups supporting children or vulnerable adults are not compatible with tenants and their guests having uncontrolled access to the site and so will undoubtedly be disadvantaged. Part of the site will be annexed for access to the flats.
    The flats will set a precedent for building of residential property on the site and constitute a loss of amenity to residents of the Area of Benefit.

    3. Adding a third hall is over-development and an inappropriate use of funds.
    This extra building increases the total ground area of the hall by more than 20% and is an unnecessary addition. It also increases the cost of the new hall by at least £100,000, plus any VAT liability.
    At the moment there are only two halls in a single building. The second hall was built only to prevent noise from the main hall causing a nuisance to nearby residents and does not provide much income. A third hall is unnecessary and will provide little or nothing of benefit for residents.
    The extra building contravenes Charity Commission guidance, which states that parts of the hall should not be permanently annexed to any particular purpose if it disadvantages other users. Were this new building to be permanently assigned, as stated in the application, to a youth group or local society then it would not be available to the rest of the community. Letting it to a business would be completely incompatible with its use by residents and so would disadvantage them. It would probably also increase traffic on the site.
    Establishing commercial premises on the site would set a precedent which might be used in future to allow further development. The only commercial activity at the moment is that conducted by customers of the hall.

    4. Keeping the old hall open is an inappropriate use of funds.
    Keeping the old hall working during construction of the new hall will incur a liability for VAT of approximately £220,000. If the old hall is demolished first then the new building will be zero-rated.
    The argument that existing customers will be retained is spurious. They are likely to return to a new building in any case. The British Legion has offered to temporarily accommodate some users.
    Income will almost certainly be much reduced as many users will be unable or unwilling to use the old hall because of parking arrangements. The biggest user will not be able to use the car park because motorcycles cannot be parked on grass and the second biggest user use all the parking space at the moment and so will find it inadequate to have only the overspill. (Local residents will not be happy if they use the road outside.) Children’s groups will not have access to an outside play area and might not feel safe with other users parking outside the windows.
    If the old hall is demolished first then the new hall can be built in the same location, saving some work and money, keeping the grass space and play area, not risking damage to the tree at the front, reducing the impact on neighbours to the east, and removing all the dangerous elements of the traffic flow.

    5. Traffic arrangements are dangerous.
    The area in front of the old hall is presently reserved for emergency access and protected by a barrier. If, as the application shows, it becomes the primary entrance and exit then cars leaving the site will not be able to see vehicles approaching from the right. Parked cars in the road to the west will further restrict visibility. Vehicles, including heavy vehicles regularly break the speed limit there.
    During construction of the new hall, traffic flow around the old hall will be dangerous as it passes in front of the main doors and fire exit. Pedestrians using the front door of the old hall will be mingled with cars entering and leaving the car park. It is not possible to determine from the plans whether or not traffic will be allowed to park outside or also flow past the doors and fire exit on the west side, but either is a safety hazard.
    Using the open grass space in the west of the site for parking during the construction period is inadequate and unsustainable. At the moment the grass is used on average about once every eight days and whenever heavy rain precedes it’s use the entrance becomes a quagmire in which vehicles become stuck. If it were to be in constant use for any length of time then the whole area will quickly be reduced to mud, possibly even in the summer. Hall users who are unable or unwilling to risk the ground will park in the road outside causing a nuisance and danger to pedestrians and to vehicles leaving the site.
    SCC are unlikely to allow council refuse vehicles to drive on grass.

    6. Moving the car park will make the open green space unusable.
    At the moment the children’s play area and the open green space are protected by the hall building and fences. When the space is not used for overspill parking it is safe and completely enclosed. It can be used by anybody for any reason, for example one hirer uses it for games. Under the proposed changes the area will be smaller and the eastern side will be open and adjacent to the car park making it unsafe for games or children.

    7. The ceiling of the main hall is too low for sports use.
    The clear ceiling height is lower than the existing hall which makes unsuitable for sports, in particular badminton which requires a clear height of at least 6 metres. The minstrel’s gallery further reduces the height over part of the hall. Sport England specifically offer a grant if a hall can be used for badminton.
    Contrary to Charity Commission guidance, reducing the height of the main hall and adding a gallery constitutes a permanent annexing of it to a particular purpose, the performing arts, to the disadvantage of sports users.

    8. The roots of one of the trees at the front of the hall will be damaged.
    There are two large trees between the hall car park and the road outside. These are an important part of the look of the village and are used to hang the Christmas lights. Damaging its roots could lead to the death of the tree. The damage is only made necessary by the insistence on keeping the old hall open.

    Should anyone agree with any of the points raised they can add their objections through the appropriate channels, via the GBC website.

  3. John Perkins Reply

    December 13, 2017 at 10:12 am

    The planning application has been withdrawn.

    What a waste of charitable funds. Will the Trustees be telling residents how much of their money has been spent on this and the earlier, rejected, application?

    A new hall with similar facilities in the same place would be acceptable to all but a few and would cost considerably less than any of these overblown schemes.

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