Published: 04 April 2013 | Share your view
Residents in Crays Hill are angry and want to shame a church for planning to sell a community hall that has been a feature of their village for nearly 100 years.
After closing All Saints' Hall in London Road in late 2011, the Parochial Church Council (PCC) of Great Burstead has now put in a planning application to Basildon Borough Council to build two detached properties on the site.
However, members of Ramsden Crays Parish Council say the land and the building were paid for by residents and should be preserved. They are concerned that the money made from the sale will not be used to build a replacement facility in the parish and that the investment ploughed into these buildings over the years will be lost.
Parish council chairman Andy Peake said: "We want to shame the church – they are not being fair. We feel we should have a village hall and we believe that the PCC has no interest in Crays Hill."
Under the terms of the conveyance between FHDC Whitmore, TW Bacon, W Bestley and the Rector of the Parish of Ramsden Crays on April 23, 1927, the land was acquired for the benefit of Ramsden Crays parishioners.
The 1927 document demands that any proceeds from a future sale are used for charitable institutions of the Parish of Ramsden Crays or for the benefit of poor inhabitants in the parish.
Mr Peake interprets this to be a reference to charitable purposes generally and not exclusively to those with a religious aspect.
Parish councillor Norman Flint said: "The land was given to the village by a villager. The money was raised by the villagers to build both halls and to maintain them. The older residents of the village always said that if the hall was ever sold off money would come back to the village."
He added: "Do you think villagers who had given their time to work on the hall would have done so if they had known the profit of their labour would have been spent elsewhere? I definitely would not have done."
Since the hall opened its doors in 1914 it has been used for a range of purposes including playgroups and Sunday school. Villagers raised money to fund the construction of the hall and in 1928 they funded an extension to the building. Over the years the villagers have continued to spend money on the hall.
In 1958, the inside of the building was redecorated and electrical work was carried out by Crays Hill residents Bill Hurrell and Brian Patmore.
In 1963 a toilet block was built and the plumbing work was carried out – this time by Mr Flint.
The money for this was raised by a mock auction at Crays Hill Cricket Club among other fundraising activities. When a new roof was built in 1991, villagers collected £11,000 over ten years to pay for it. Yet again, a villager stepped in and secured a grant when the toilets needed modernising and a kitchen was installed at the cost of £18,500.
"In my opinion, at today's values, the villagers have put £100,000 into building and maintaining the hall," Mr Flint said.
He said he believes that the PCC has used the wording of the conveyance to blur the meaning of the word parish.
"The Great Burstead PCC in my opinion has muddied the water in their favour by referring to the ecclesiastical parish of Ramsden Crays," Mr Flint said.
"The 1927 conveyance refers to the future sale proceeds being used for charitable institutions of the parish Ramsden Crays or for the benefit of poor inhabitants of the parish."
A PCC spokesman said: "We have of course taken proper legal advice and we have shared this with Ramsden Crays Parish Council so that they have all the answers to the queries that you raise."
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