Church offers to buy historic hall to benefit community
MEMBERS of a Locks Heath church are offering to buy and rebuild a historic hall to preserve it for the local community.
St John’s Church wants to buy the dilapidated Locks Heath Memorial Hall and the plot on which it stands – which is opposite its own buildings – demolish it, then build and manage a new, purpose-built facility, because of the demand for it in the local community.
The church already hires out its own rooms to a variety of groups, including Alcoholics Anonymous, slimming clubs, art and craft societies, adult education groups and NHS counsellors – and regularly has to turn away requests from other potential users.
Until recently, the Memorial Hall also had regular users every day. There is also the potential for a pre-school to be launched in the hall, because of the shortage of places nearby.
Ideally, the church would like to buy the site, demolish the existing hall and create a purpose-built, accessible hall that could be used for family celebrations, regular meetings and communal meals. It could offer cookery classes, debt counselling, a drop-in café for the lonely and activities for teenagers.
The church has made Fareham Borough Council an offer after hearing their plans to demolish the hall to make way for a single bungalow on the site. It offered to buy the site for a nominal fee - £1 – and then raise the estimated £400,000 needed to demolish the old hall and build a new one.
The vicar, the Rev Gavin Foster, said: “Locks Heath Memorial Hall was originally built on a piece of land that was given to the local community by Louis Lynn, the very first churchwarden of our church, 100 years ago.
“The money for building work was raised through church collections, loans and fundraising activities – so it was always a space that had been created by the local community, in memory of local people who had died in the First World War.
“By the 1960s, the church was subsidising the hall and couldn’t carry on doing so. So it allowed Fareham Borough Council to take over ownership, to try to preserve the hall for the community.
“Because of the poor state of the building in recent years, the council decided to sell it to a developer who would build a single bungalow on the site. We think that would be a needless and irreversible waste of a community asset, and we think it has a viable and long-term future as a community hub.
“We also feel that, in the year when we mark 100 years since the end of the First World War, the memory of those who lost their lives in that conflict should be retained in this building – and that the vision of those who created this hall should be respected.
“A new, modern hall, with disabled access, that is versatile and flexible, and with a kitchen that complies with modern hygiene regulations, could be used by all sorts of local groups. We know there is a demand locally because we often have to turn down requests to use our church’s community rooms.
“We also know there is a shortage of pre-school places in the area, and a new building could be a safe, welcoming environment for such families.”
It has also offered Fareham Borough Council the option of retaining the ownership of the land, leasing it to the church on a peppercorn rent, which would also allow the church to demolish the old hall and build a new one.
The church is now inviting local residents to contact their local councillors to register their support for either a new bungalow or a new community hall.