06/02/2014 1 Comment
Last year I think a lot of Lakenheath residents were shocked and saddened to see the British Legion Club close its doors. As it has played a significant part in village life for as long as I can remember.
At the time I was asked to meet with members of the local British Legion to see what could be done. It became clear that the premises in its current form could not pay the lease costs to the national Royal British Legion and so had to close. I spoke with the national team about would it be possible to reopen under a community banner but they were very hard-nosed about it being a Legion asset and their duty was to maximise that asset, so eventually the ‘For Sale’ board was put up.
So imagine my delight to be contacted by the Lakenheath Peace Memorial Hall Trustee’s Chairman Brendan Fulham to see if I could register it under the community right to buy scheme essentially a scheme which gives local communities breathing space to put together fund raising and a business plan. And if I know of any sources of finance.
Since then the committee has been working hard raising money and a number of people in the village have given generously towards the target.
For my part I have been in discussions with officers at both the District Council and the County Council to see what funding might be available and in parallel, I have been lobbying FHDC and my fellow Conservative Councillors in the Council’s cabinet with a simple premise of forward spending some of the future Section 106 monies that will be flowing from future housing i.e. a loan to be repaid to take up this golden opportunity to create a village centre and not to miss this golden opportunity.
All the behind the scenes work has culminated in the following letter:
‘Dear Cllr Millar,
RE: Community Right to Bid – The People’s Project, Lakenheath
I understand that you will be considering an options paper in relation to assistance Forest Heath District Council could give to The People’s Project, in terms of purchasing the Royal British Legion site with Lakenheath. In my dual role as both County Councillor and District Councillor for the village of Lakenheath I have been aware of the community wishes from the outset.
The closure of the Royal British Legion club facility was a significant blow to the village and since then a number of community groups and residents have approached me to see if it were possible to keep the facility.
I have been fully supportive and championed The People’s Project and equally supportive of the Village Hall committee proposals and the way in which they have engaged with the wider community as they seek funding to make this happen. Since the community meeting in October 2013 which attracted over a 100 villagers, the group have been working hard to gain support and have attracted a proportion of the funding (in the region of £40,000).
Lakenheath is going to grow and an important part of that growth must be community facilities alongside to allow the village to continue to be a successful and pleasant place to live. The community spirit and activities in the village are something I talk about across Suffolk and they simply need more facilities in which to function.
The pressure on the Sports Pavilion and the Village Hall has recently been brought home to me as I have need to host a public meeting and had to wait for 6 weeks for the first available booking.
The People’s Project have approached the project in a very business-like manner and I firmly believe that the whole village is supportive of this bid. Of course in an ideal world such funding is provided by developers seeking to build housing but as we know housing growth is coming and this once in a lifetime opportunity should not be lost.
As you will be aware the current bid is in the region of £120,000 which is over the estimate of £60,000 – £120,000, however if we could provide the loan funding to facilitate a bid and hopefully make the purchase happen, the village with see that Forest Heath District Council understands and backs the need for facilities to support housing growth.
Cllr Colin Noble
Lakenheath District Councillor’
The great news is that at Tuesday’s FHDC Cabinet forward planning meeting my letter and the representations from the People Project has resulting in the Cabinet agreeing to ask officers to prepare an options paper and they will formally discuss this at their next Cabinet Meeting.
We’ve not there yet but with the generosity of Lakenheath people, the hard work of the Trustee’s and the foresightedness of the FHDC cabinet we are a step closer. So roll on that Cabinet meeting and hopefully the bid will be successful and the Trustees can, in advance of the new housing, make this purchase to significantly enhance the facilities in the middle of the village.