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St Peter's Church Hall and the Rectory Barn

An Information Sheet issued by the PCC, Rector and Churchwardens
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At the Limpsfield Parish Council Meeting on Wednesday 31st March 8.15pm a proposition was made which was carried unanimously by approximately 200 people who were present.  It read as follows:-
"The residents of Limpsfield value the Glebe and Brook Fields as precious assets to be protected for both present and future generations. The offer by the Diocese to pay �500,000 towards the cost of a new hall on the site of the burnt out barn in exchange for the site of the present hall and car park would, if accepted, increase the likelihood of the fields being developed for housing.  Not only would all important access have been created but the ability of residents to mount a convincing campaign opposing development would have been undermined by the fact that it was their own Church which had provided such access. They therefore ask the Parish Council to urge St Peter's P.C.C. to reject the offer"

CANCELLATION Of MEETING

1st June at 8 pm
St Peter's Hall. Limpsfield
“The Rector and Churchwardens have met with the Bishop of Croydon and representatives of the Diocese of Southwark It was clear from this meeting thai the Diocese cannot give any guarantee as to the future of the Glebe Field. In the light of this, the PCC has decided that it is unable to respond to the offer. The Diocese will now look again at all the issues relating to the Rectory Bam site, St Peter's Hall and the Glebe Field.
As a consequence THERE WILL BE NO MEETING ON 1ST JUNE AT 8PM

If you have any queries please contact the owners of the land:
Mr Simon Parton, Diocesan Secretary, Diocese of Southhwark, Trinity House 4 Chapel Court, Borough High Street London SE1 IHW 17th May 2004”

The Rectory Bam burned down in November 2001 and St Peter's Parochial Church Council (the PCC) has been asking the diocesan authorities, who own the land, what they propose to do about the site, which is a considerable eye sore. The Diocesan Trust, which administers church assets and has a duty to maximize the value of the assets for the benefit of the Diocese, owns both the Barn site and the Glebe Field.

The Church Hall was built in 1969 as a temporary structure with an estimated life of 25 years. It is a utilitarian timber building typical of the sixties. The site remained in the ownership of St Peter's Church when the Glebe Field and Rectory Bam were transferred to Diocesan ownership in 1985. A steady maintenance programme over recent years has ensured that the building is now in good shape and as attractive inside as possible. It is used a great deal by the people of Limpsfield, and the Hall committee has done an excellent job to make this possible. However, the hall cannot economically be maintained indefinitely, and though it will last another five or ten years without significant maintenance, it is likely that substantial work, or replacement, will be necessary within the foreseeable future. The construction of an attractive and permanent replacement would cost in the order of �600 to �700 thousand at today's rates.

In response to the PCC's request that something be done with the Bam site, the Diocese has recently made an offer to St Peter's Church. They will pay �500,000 towards the cost of a new hall in exchange for a land swap which would transfer the site of the bam and the adjacent building known as Dorothy's cottage to the Parish, in exchange for the site of the existing hall. This faces the PCC with a dilemma. Do we accept the offer, in which case we get most of the cost of replacing the hall, or do we reject it, in which case the Diocesan Trust is likely to build one or two houses on the site of the barn and we will, in due course, be faced with a formidable funding task for the replacement of the hall?

If we accept the offer then we are faced with a reasonable sum of money to raise to replace the hall, and the new hall can be built while the existing hall is still in use, thereby maintaining the continuation of lettings and the ability to move events from the old hall to the new with continuous availability of a hall on the site. The site is large enough to provide a hall with a slightly larger ground plan than the existing hall, and any planning objections can hopefully be resolved.

A possible downside to this apparently attractive offer from the Diocese is that we would be giving improved access to the Glebe Field which is necessary if the field is ever to be developed for housing. If it were developed, then it is likely that the adjacent Brook Field, which is owned by the Titsey Estate, would also be developed. The fields are currently designated as 'White Land' in the District Council Development Plan, and there is no existing intent to permit development. However, the Council has an obligation to find space for a large number of houses within the District, and this development would meet a major portion of the obligation. In, perhaps, ten, twenty five or a hundred years this option may prove to be irresistible to the Council, particularly if housing pressures in the South East of England continue as at present.

While proper road access to the site is necessary if it is to be developed, a road through the site of the existing hall is by no means the only option. Houses between the fields and the surrounding roads come regularly to the market, and the Titsey estate and the Diocesan Trust could easily acquire one. They could then let the house until they had the chance to knock it down and build the access road. Even if the Diocese owned the site of the existing hall, it is by no means certain that they would be permitted to use the site for a road. Its use might well necessitate a roundabout, with all the associated signage and street lighting, immediately opposite a Grade 1 listed church and directly overlooked by the graves of a group of notable musicians within a very attractive and quiet graveyard. Other possibilities would be preferable, both aesthetically and in terms of traffic management. The Titsey Estate already owns the access lane from Bluehouse Lane and the houses on either side of it. It is therefore definitely not the case that the PCC can, by turning the Diocesan Trust's offer down, prevent, in perpetuity, or even delay the development of the Glebe and Brook Fields.

Because the hall and any other development in its immediate vicinity would have such an impact on the village, we will, in the near future, be calling an open meeting when the PCC, the Diocese and other interested parties will present the facts to the parish. We will also seek to explore the extent to which those who object to the land swap would be willing to help with the rebuilding of the hall on the existing site when this becomes necessary.

 

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