Why won’t council let me build new community centre at Druitt Hall?

A CHRISTCHURCH businessman is seeking legal advice over the council’s handling of the Druitt Hall saga.

Dr Alistair Somerville-Ford, head of the Institute of Commercial Management (ICM) in Ringwood, has offered to replace the Druitt Hall in Christchurch with a new community centre and museum.

He unveiled the plans at a public meeting in September, pledging to upgrade the existing building while land for a replacement hall was identified.

He also confirmed he would fund the building of a new hall, up to a maximum of £1.5million and transfer it to a local trust, relieving the council of any cost or expense in maintaining the new building.

But since then, following unsuccessful talks with council chiefs, including Chief Executive David McIntosh, who stated there was no need for a community hall in the town centre, Mr Ford is seeking legal advice on how to move forward.

Mr Ford said: “They basically said we cannot have it.

“This is despite them wanting to pull it down next year.

“The chief executive said he would consider it if we were prepared to submit a business plan and I said to him this is a road we have been down before and nothing has come of it.

“I have absolutely no doubt that if I were to produce such a document, no matter how convincing, it would be rejected.

“It is very difficult to understand when somebody is seeking to support the needs of the elderly within the community and is prepared to fund the whole operation, who would reject an offer like this?”

The Friends of Druitt Hall have been fighting to keep the dilapidated hall open despite the council voting unanimously to close it in March 2013.

Anne Mason, one of the Friends said: “I find it inexplicable for the council to summarily dismiss this extremely generous offer.

“Planning permission for the new hall was extended in 2011 for a further three years, at which time it was clear that the council wished to see this implemented.”

Key omission spotted

Part of the council’s Core Strategy supporting a new town centre community hall has been removed from the latest draft of the document.

Eagle-eyed supporters spotted the omission as the document goes out to consultation again.

The new statement says: “Community facilities will be safeguarded and support will be given to community groups and organisations to develop volunteering and to obtain premises from which to deliver services.”

David McIntosh, chief executive of the Christchurch and East Dorset Partnership, said: “We don’t believe there is a need for a community hall in Christchurch town centre.

“However, should any organisation or individual produce a robust business plan to provide such a facility, we will make the land available.”

Comments (15)

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5:18pm Thu 8 Nov 12

paul.p says...

It's a nice gesture Mr ford but i think you'd be better off to leave the planning, building and money allocation to the best council in the south, they don't want people treading on their toes.

I'm sure your money would be better spent where the councils nose doesn't fit.
It's a nice gesture Mr ford but i think you'd be better off to leave the planning, building and money allocation to the best council in the south, they don't want people treading on their toes. I'm sure your money would be better spent where the councils nose doesn't fit. paul.p
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5:36pm Thu 8 Nov 12

xchresident says...

The aspiration for a Town Centre Community Hall appears regularly in Council policy and documents over many years and is referred to as recently as Feb 21 2012 minutes of the full Council Meeting. (‘In our desire to provide a community facility in tune with the 21st century, we will certainly take account of the need for any new building to be environmentally sympathetic.’ )

In the Christchurch and East Dorset Core Strategy Pre-submission Consultation document published for the public consultation 2nd April to 25th June 2012 p 21 of the Core Strategy Vision reads:

‘Community facilities will be safeguarded and support will be given to the community groups and organisations to develop volunteering, and to obtain premises from which to deliver services. The provision of a new community facility in Christchurch town centre will be supported.’

Suddenly without notice we find the amended core Strategy Pre-submission Consultation document just sent out for final consultation 2 November 2012 has deleted that reference with the following note in the Core Strategy Vision:

p6 ‘ Reference to a new community facility in Christchurch town centre has been deleted as the Council does not have an aspiration for this.’

What about the 2,020 signatures opposing demolition of the current hall without replacement? What about the case made by the Christchurch Community Partnership which said in July 2011 "the need for a replacement hall in the centre of Christchurch is stronger than ever and we remain keen to make a start."

What about the Council actually considering the wishes and needs of Christchurch Residents???
The aspiration for a Town Centre Community Hall appears regularly in Council policy and documents over many years and is referred to as recently as Feb 21 2012 minutes of the full Council Meeting. (‘In our desire to provide a community facility in tune with the 21st century, we will certainly take account of the need for any new building to be environmentally sympathetic.’ ) In the Christchurch and East Dorset Core Strategy Pre-submission Consultation document published for the public consultation 2nd April to 25th June 2012 p 21 of the Core Strategy Vision reads: ‘Community facilities will be safeguarded and support will be given to the community groups and organisations to develop volunteering, and to obtain premises from which to deliver services. The provision of a new community facility in Christchurch town centre will be supported.’ Suddenly without notice we find the amended core Strategy Pre-submission Consultation document just sent out for final consultation 2 November 2012 has deleted that reference with the following note in the Core Strategy Vision: p6 ‘ Reference to a new community facility in Christchurch town centre has been deleted as the Council does not have an aspiration for this.’ What about the 2,020 signatures opposing demolition of the current hall without replacement? What about the case made by the Christchurch Community Partnership which said in July 2011 "the need for a replacement hall in the centre of Christchurch is stronger than ever and we remain keen to make a start." What about the Council actually considering the wishes and needs of Christchurch Residents??? xchresident
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6:54pm Thu 8 Nov 12

Azphreal says...

So Dr Alistair Somerville-Ford has not asked for anything then?
So Dr Alistair Somerville-Ford has not asked for anything then? Azphreal
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11:10pm Thu 8 Nov 12

Brock_and_Roll says...

Something very fishy going on here.....I thought we were all supposed to be buying into this "big society" idea - this seems a perfect example where the community is prepared to do something for itself so a letter to DC might be in order!

I smell the influence of builders/developers on a skint council - if the council tear the old hall down, what plans do they have for the (valuable) site?
Something very fishy going on here.....I thought we were all supposed to be buying into this "big society" idea - this seems a perfect example where the community is prepared to do something for itself so a letter to DC might be in order! I smell the influence of builders/developers on a skint council - if the council tear the old hall down, what plans do they have for the (valuable) site? Brock_and_Roll
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12:01am Fri 9 Nov 12

Jetwasher says...

Large brown envelopes will help I'm sure ;)
Large brown envelopes will help I'm sure ;) Jetwasher
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9:04am Fri 9 Nov 12

O'Really says...

Hey Christchurch Council,
What's that all about?
~
A generous philanthropic gesture such as this for the people of Christchurch should not be rejected.
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The aging Druitt Hall has been much used and much loved over many years and a free fully-funded replacement (!!) would provide a community space and employment.
~
It's a no-brainer, and a rejection of this offer raises all sorts of questions.
Hey Christchurch Council, What's that all about? ~ A generous philanthropic gesture such as this for the people of Christchurch should not be rejected. ~ The aging Druitt Hall has been much used and much loved over many years and a free fully-funded replacement (!!) would provide a community space and employment. ~ It's a no-brainer, and a rejection of this offer raises all sorts of questions. O'Really
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12:51pm Fri 9 Nov 12

coster says...

since the handover to east dorset council,the christchurch councillors have become mute acceptors of anything the 'chief executive' McIntosh dictates. If it does not fit his plan it won't go through.
since the handover to east dorset council,the christchurch councillors have become mute acceptors of anything the 'chief executive' McIntosh dictates. If it does not fit his plan it won't go through. coster
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1:13pm Fri 9 Nov 12

penhale says...

Typical of most councils, ask what people want and then ignore it.
Typical of most councils, ask what people want and then ignore it. penhale
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8:44am Sat 10 Nov 12

damnlion says...

How arrogant of Mc Intosh to say there is no need for a town centre community hall...does he live here ? No he does not. As a town centre resident I'd say we do need a town centre hall.
Earlier this year there was a petition to save the hall with over 2000, yes two thousand, signatures in favour of keeping a hall in its present site.
The council, it would seem, have another agenda...it all smacks of underhand dealings and greed...possible development...
As Oreally says, above, rejection of this offer of Mr Ford's raises all sorts of questions...which the council will wriggle out of answering.
By refusing this the council will make themselves look even more foolish than they already are (if that is possible!).
Serious questions need to be asked as to why,exactly, they don't want it built.
When the CCP were raising money for a new hall the council were all behind it, why the change of mind ? Does this mean the council never really supported the CCP, even though, on paper, they said they did ?
Where will the thousands of pounds already raised go ?
Yet more appalling behaviour from this council and it's bully boy leader. You should all be ashamed of youselves.
How arrogant of Mc Intosh to say there is no need for a town centre community hall...does he live here ? No he does not. As a town centre resident I'd say we do need a town centre hall. Earlier this year there was a petition to save the hall with over 2000, yes two thousand, signatures in favour of keeping a hall in its present site. The council, it would seem, have another agenda...it all smacks of underhand dealings and greed...possible development... As Oreally says, above, rejection of this offer of Mr Ford's raises all sorts of questions...which the council will wriggle out of answering. By refusing this the council will make themselves look even more foolish than they already are (if that is possible!). Serious questions need to be asked as to why,exactly, they don't want it built. When the CCP were raising money for a new hall the council were all behind it, why the change of mind ? Does this mean the council never really supported the CCP, even though, on paper, they said they did ? Where will the thousands of pounds already raised go ? Yet more appalling behaviour from this council and it's bully boy leader. You should all be ashamed of youselves. damnlion
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5:45pm Sat 10 Nov 12

belafonte says...

Why won’t council let a Christchurch Businessman build new community centre at Druitt Hall?

Answer: Because Christchurch Council got taken over by East Dorset Council.

Will the last person at the Bridge Street Offices please turn the lights out.
Why won’t council let a Christchurch Businessman build new community centre at Druitt Hall? Answer: Because Christchurch Council got taken over by East Dorset Council. Will the last person at the Bridge Street Offices please turn the lights out. belafonte
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11:30am Sun 11 Nov 12

Crank says...

Vicious personality clashes and mega-egos are at play: where's the community spirit gone? Where's the public spirit gone? Straight to the developers? A 20-year fight to get Druitt Gardens a Public Open Space - what designs does our lousy council have on them after this, after trashing the woodland nature reserve? Knock down the hall to improve its development feasability? How can they tell such unsubstantiated lies about no requirement for a town centre hall? Elected to listen to the people, and with that rare commodity, a generous benefactor, they are now so smothered with egg on their faces enough to suffocate them. How do they think this makes them look? What effect on their duties as councillors? Gift horses spring to mind. We, the local taxpayers and community contributors, are nothing short of outraged and disgusted by the councillors' peeky response to an unbeatable offer. Come clean, councillors: what further desecration do you have in your myopic minds?
Vicious personality clashes and mega-egos are at play: where's the community spirit gone? Where's the public spirit gone? Straight to the developers? A 20-year fight to get Druitt Gardens a Public Open Space - what designs does our lousy council have on them after this, after trashing the woodland nature reserve? Knock down the hall to improve its development feasability? How can they tell such unsubstantiated lies about no requirement for a town centre hall? Elected to listen to the people, and with that rare commodity, a generous benefactor, they are now so smothered with egg on their faces enough to suffocate them. How do they think this makes them look? What effect on their duties as councillors? Gift horses spring to mind. We, the local taxpayers and community contributors, are nothing short of outraged and disgusted by the councillors' peeky response to an unbeatable offer. Come clean, councillors: what further desecration do you have in your myopic minds? Crank
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7:03pm Fri 16 Nov 12

mytown1 says...

Now that Christchurch Borough Council have put in a Planning Application to demolish Druitt Hall I assume they think that will be the end of the matter and it will be passed before the local people have time object!
Now that Christchurch Borough Council have put in a Planning Application to demolish Druitt Hall I assume they think that will be the end of the matter and it will be passed before the local people have time object! mytown1
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