Updates on the new Henry Warren Hall
We very much hope you have all got through the past stressful year safely, especially those amongst you who have had to juggle work and home schooling. It is great to see the amount of support the members of our community have given each other. Now with the swift roll-out of vaccines, the government’s published timetable for relaxing the lockdown, and spring being here to help lift the spirits, let us hope for a much better year in 2021.
Achieving planning approval from the South Downs National Park (SDNP) on 22nd May last year was a great relief after working through the numerous design changes. We knew much hard work still lay ahead but did not at the time realise just how much!
We set to work again immediately to satisfy the Planning Conditions. Unfortunately disruption to normal working, sickness, and self-isolation due to COVID-19 slowed responses from many organisations, creating extra work and delaying progress. We apologise for the lack of communication but there was therefore little we could report.
Planning: The SDNP regards ours as a special project requiring the highest standards, and approval was granted subject to 24 conditions:
Five – standard applying to all approvals e.g. development must commence within 3 years,
Ten – specific to the hall,
Seven – specific to the new houses,
Two – pre-commencement joint conditions on the two developments (new hall and new houses); being surface water drainage and construction management plans.
The SDNP considered linkage of the new hall to the housing project an important exception to normal rules. This explains why they linked the two projects by pre-commencement conditions. It was clear to us that this linkage threatened to hamstring development, because the sites are not adjoining and would be developed by different organisations, probably over different timescales.
We set to work to prepare a case to unlink hall and houses, and to prepare our applications to satisfy all other conditions. This involved such things as soil tests, detailed engineering calculations, electrical installations, selection of materials, interior design and landscaping detail. By the end of the summer, we were ready to submit most of the detailed plans, but our request for the hall pre-conditions to be reviewed separately was turned down. We were advised to submit an S73 application to amend the May planning approval. This would also require a variation of the S106, which seeks to ensure financing for the hall.
We submitted an application S73 to separate houses and hall in late October and a further eight applications to discharge other planning conditions. According to SDNP practice they should decide on such matters within eight weeks. As usual the timetable did not hold and we were asked to grant SDNP additional time on two occasions. As applicant, these are requests you cannot refuse. Approval to all applications was finally granted on 5th February 2021, fifteen weeks after submission. We owe special thanks to our planning consultant, Paul Bennett, of Kalotec, who made great efforts in successfully working through the large number of conditions attached to the planning consents.
Finance: We also owe a huge “thank you” to the Charity’s Treasurer, Nyewood resident Helen New, who despite continuing full time work, whilst home-schooling her boys and otherwise looking after home and family, has continued to devote time to the Charity’s work. In order to prepare for the building project it was necessary to arrange a number of financial controls. The bank accounts have always been Community accounts but the bank rejected Helen’s application on the grounds that we should have Charity accounts. Helen strongly argued against this but was initially overruled. Eventually, after three months of being passed from office to office Helen was advised that she had been correct all along and that the Charity should retain Community accounts. The Charity is fortunate to have such a knowledgeable professional accountant. We are also much indebted to another Nyewood resident, Angela Smith an experienced auditor, for taking on the Charity’s audit. She has given valuable advice on devising systems to protect the Charity’s future finances.
Sale of old hall site:
Alongside our planning work, we carried out the preparations for sale of the old site as required under the 2011 Charities Act, by arranging for an independent survey and valuation, and advertising the property for sale for a month. This generated considerable interest. Negotiations with a local developer on the sale contract has been on going since.
The best news of all is that TODAY we have finally exchanged contracts for the sale of the old site! The transaction is due for completion on 8th March. Once the payment has been received, we will be able to send out the tender documents for the building of the new hall, which have already been prepared. These will go to a number of local building firms, which we have already selected. Their preparation of bids, our review of them and the award of contracts are likely to take about two months, subject to any delays due to Covid 19. After this construction can commence. We are therefore more than delighted to be able to tell you that at last the start of the building work itself is in sight!
You may be certain that we will do our utmost to continue to move the project forward as fast as possible in 2021.
Keep safe, keep well.
Chris Wright, Sym Taylor, Paul Martin
Trustees The Henry Warren Village Club