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Villagers will go to polls on hall’s future in Meopham

Villagers will take to the polls at the end of the month to decide whether they want another community hall in Meopham.

At the annual parish meeting, held last week, the council revealed plans to create a new council building and hall that can be used by the community, at a cost of £300,000 to £400,000.

There are already at least 14 other venues in the area that can host events, plus churches and pubs, and some who took umbrage with the idea at the meeting requested a parish poll to gauge views.

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.

Meopham Windmill where the parish council meets

The area was gifted to the village in 1950 by Mr Judson and was intended to be used for recreation for those living in the area.

The original deeds, handed to the council in 1950, 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”.

Parish councillor Max Bramer said: “How can running a village hall – in all but name – and relocating the parish office there count as a recreation ground?

“Frederick Judson’s son Frank is now deceased, but he has two grandsons, Paul and Peter, who live in the area.

"Despite statements made a number of times in council meetings, neither of the Judson brothers knew anything about the plans until the village hall committee told them a few weeks ago and at least one of them has expressed concern.”

Fears have also been expressed that to help cover costs, the new building will be rented out for community use and could take business away and cause financial difficulties for the village hall.

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

Some have expressed fears that should the parish council move from its base at Meopham Windmill, the trust which runs it could face financial challenges as it receives £1,500 a year in rent.

Meopham Parish Council said it was inviting quotes from contractors for the proposed development at Judson’s to meet the criteria for applying for grants to fund the project.

A formal tender process would take place once funding is secured.

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