Published: 00:01, 18 December 2015
| Updated: 15:12, 18 December 2015
A former fire station is at the centre of a bitter battle between villagers as they decide what to do with the disused building.
Residents in Halling are unhappy with the parish council’s decision to stall a possible £175,000 sale of the premises to the local Baptist church.
They claim the decision was already made several years ago when a business review report was produced and discussed at a council meeting.
The villagers say at the time a vote was held and it was agreed that the most viable and profitable option was to sell it. Many villagers say it makes much more sense to sell it to the church, as it will still be used by the community.
Since then the parish council has changed and new members have been appointed.
However, despite the offer from the church, the parish council decided at its last meeting to set up a special fire station committee to carry out a feasibility study and business plan to explore the best options.
The fire station, which now belongs to the Halling community, was closed due to cuts in 2012.
The decision to hold a review has angered many villagers who were at the first meeting of the new committee at the village community centre on Wednesday.
Members outlined the aims, but chairman Kelly Talbot admitted they didn’t have all the facts and figures relating to the fire station’s first business report to hand when asked by the villagers.
Barry Barnes, a villager, said: “The parish council keep moving the goalposts. We have been here before and it was decided the best option was to sell the building, why are we here again when there is a good offer on the table?”
Kevyn Whiteman fears the village will lose the £175,000 if the sale does not go though, but Kevin Felix-Hollington, the pastor of Halling Baptist Church, told the Medway Messenger after the meeting, the offer would remain on the table until the committee had completed its fact-finding mission.
Mrs Talbot told the meeting: “We have not got all the facts and figures here at the moment and we were voted in to make sure we do the right thing for the parish of Halling.
"We have to look into all other options.”
The fire station was purchased by the parish council on behalf of the community after housing giant Redrow, which had built a large new estate in the area, donated £100,000.
It was hoped the purchase would enable the parish council to sell on the building for a profit and the intention was to plough their profits back into the community.
Many villagers say they are worried if it is not sold, the parish council will have to fork out thousands to bring the building up to date and they will be left with a white elephant.
They want the profit from a sale to be used to improve village amenities and provide a much-needed playground.
However, earlier this month it was decided the sale of the building would be delayed until March next year and the special committee was set up.
More by this authorLynn Cox