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Fears for Meopham village hall over rec plan in Meopham

The village hall in Meopham could end up closing if plans for a new community centre get the go-ahead at Judson’s recreation ground.

Two weeks ago, the Gravesend Messenger exclusively revealed details about a village poll to be held today (Thursday) to decide whether they want another community hall in Meopham.

At the annual parish meeting, earlier this month, the council spoke of its plans to create a new council building and hall.

It would cost around £250,000 to build which will be funded by grants and income made from groups currently using the village hall.

Meopham Village Hall, Wrotham Road - Brian Blount and Trixie Leyshon at the front
Meopham Village Hall, Wrotham Road - Brian Blount and Trixie Leyshon at the front

It comes as part of plans to modernise the pavilion on Judson’s rec, used by football team Meopham Colts.

The news sent shock waves through the Meopham Village Hall management committee after the council suggested some of the groups using the village hall could move to the new one.

Vice-chairman of the Wrotham Road hall Trixie Leyshon, 68, said: “If there was only one place for groups to meet, this wouldn’t be a problem, but there are 19 venues and now they want to build the 20th.

“We need to keep our groups using our hall to make this viable. If they take our business away I really do not see how we could cope.

“For me, the problem isn’t the venue itself; it’s what they want to do with it. The land was given to the parish for recreational use, for the youth of the community. This goes completely against that and there hasn’t been any change of use.

“We have no objection for it being used for sports facilities and there are lots of people that would enjoy it, but the council’s plan includes a hall and we feel that is unnecessary.”

Meopham Village Hall
Meopham Village Hall

Dance groups, keep-fit classes and mother and toddler groups have been earmarked as potential users of the new building. These groups now meet in the village hall.

Thought to cost the taxpayer around £3,000, the poll will ask “should the council cancel planned proposals for new council buildings and other non-recreational redevelopments at Judson’s Recreation Ground and simply refurbish the existing facilities for sport and recreation in line with the wishes of the late Frederick Judson?”

The answer will be a simple yes or no.

The fields were given to the village in 1950 by Mr Judson.

The original deeds state the area must only be used as a recreation ground and this cannot be changed “without the written permission of the donor or his executors”.

Mrs Leyshon, who is looking for about £5,000 to fix the village hall roof, said: “It won’t just be us that suffer.

“The Windmill Trust will also lose their rent money if the council moves out – then what will they do?

“The council told me they’d said they were very happy for them to leave but when I spoke to the Windmill Trust, they knew nothing about it.

“If this does go ahead, we will have to put our prices up and then some clubs won’t be able to afford it and they’ll have to go somewhere else.

"Contrary to rumours there is no intention to take business away from Meopham Village Hall" - Meopham Action Group.

“We only need to lose a few contracts for this place to become unviable.”

The village hall’s former treasurer David Arnold, 84, said: “The council is basically saying ‘we’d like a better office’ and it seems the windmill is being sacrificed.

“That windmill is part of our history and our heritage. This plan isn’t going to do us any good and yet it is being done in the name of the parish.

“We’re going to fight. It’s our duty as trustees.”

Polling stations will only be open today from 4pm to 9pm and there will be no polling cards issued. The result will not be legally binding.

The proposed complex will include:

  • An area large enough for up to 40 people to meet, which will also be suitable for accommodating the youth centre, toddler and nursery groups and community activities
  • Refurbished changing rooms for two football teams (home and away) and for match officials with showers
  • Toilets, including one disabled WC
  • Two offices
  • Kitchenette
  • Storage rooms

A spokesman for Meopham Action Group said: "Meopham Parish Council owns one building, ‘Judsons Pavilion’, presently used by Meopham Colts Soccer Club for storage and until recently as a Youth Club.

"However, it is in such a dilapidated state that refurbishment is not really the answer. What is needed is to modernise , improve and refurbish it in order to create a facility of which we,the community, can be proud.

"To do this they will need funding. The majority of funding will come in the form of grants and donations. If we pull together we can help by applying for lottery funding.

"Contrary to rumours there is no intention to take business away from Meopham Village Hall or any other establishments but to complement their activities and provide a focal point for the Community at large and encourage greater public participation in community matters."

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