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Druitt Hall site scheme comes before committee
CONTROVERSIAL plans to demolish Druitt Hall in Christchurch will go before the planning committee on Thursday.
Christchurch Borough Council has applied to its own planning department to demolish the beloved but dilapidated hall and replace it with a landscaped area, which would include a tall sculpture, areas of seating and new trees.
But the plans have provoked an outcry from residents and users of the hall, who want to see it retained or replaced.
Officers from the council have recommended the plans for approval despite more than 200 letters and five petitions with 1,007 signatures being handed to the council in protest.
Among many objections, the main causes for concern include the proposal being against the original terms of the bequest of land forming Druitt Gardens, the development not being in keeping with the conservation area and the loss of the valuable facilities.
The objections say the new library rooms will not be able to accommodate large meetings and will have limited opening hours with other letters saying the council has “already spoilt Druitt Gardens by putting in paths and cycle tracks”.
But in a report to the committee, which will meet on January 3, officers say the loss of the building, erected in the 1950s, would not be detrimental to the area.
Last year, councillors on the resources committee agreed to demolish the building in March 2013, based on the poor condition of the building.
And the latest report supports those reasons, saying there is a good provision of community halls in the town centre to replace the loss of the hall, which does not “positively contribute” to the area.
The potential demolition of the hall has been a controversial issue for more than a year after ownership was handed back to Christchurch Council.
Residents, dedicated to saving it, formed the Friends of Druitt Hall to campaign for its retention and found a financial backer in local businessman Dr Alistair Somerville-Ford who agreed to fund a new hall while keeping the old hall going.
But despite the offer, the council said it did not believe there was any need for a new community hall in the town centre.
Chief executive David McIntosh said should any organisation or individual produce a robust business plan to provide such a facility, the council would make the land available.