Buxted’s ‘heart’ set to beat soon

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Building work on Buxted’s new ‘heart’ looks set to start after years of planning setbacks.

Residents hope that enough money can be raised so a £1-million scheme to construct a new village hall can go ahead. So far, there is about £250,000 in the kitty which means foundations, drainage and services can be laid and the ground landscaped.

The village’s existing hall, known as The Reading Room, was built in 1908 and proved too small to serve the growing population. During the consultation process for Buxted Parish Council’s Parish Plan, local people said they would like a new village hall with up-to-date facilities to become the heart of the community. A steering group was formed, potential site on Ionides land south of the village identified and plans drawn up.

The Buxted Village Hall Trust was formed and it aims to drive forward a scheme to build the hall alongside the new medical centre. Although the scheme was initially approved, in 2011 it fell foul of the council’s imposition of development restrictions within seven kilometres of the Ashdown Forest.

After much wrangling, a planning application was lodged and finally approved by Wealden District Council in July last year on condition that the existing Reading Room be permanently closed and all services cut off.

A Trust spokeswoman said: “The hall will provide significant benefits to all residents and its potential value cannot be overstated. There are many local clubs, societies and individuals who are interested in holding activities in the proposed building. The quality of life for elderly villagers - especially those with disabilities - will be enhanced because they can engage with the community at the new hall next to the medical centre and children’s playground.”

With 312 square metres of floor space the building will comprise two halls, lobby area to be used as a cafe and meeting point and new access onto Framfield Road.

Now comes the call to raise enough money to complete the project. Trustee Sheila Bartholomew would like to see young people become involved. “They are the ones who will benefit most from the scheme.” She said there has been excellent feedback from both the Trust’s own Facebook page and Buxted Talk. Funds have been raised through a series of village events, quizzes, charity dinners, a football match, talks, sales, concerts and a ball. The next event on the agenda is an Indian cookery demonstration on Tuesday, February 2 from 7.30pm in the Reading Room but people are urged to come forward with extra fundraising ideas.

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