After years of waiting and an unexpected conflict with the Ashdown Forest seven-kilometre development exclusion zone, the road is now clear for Buxted’s new village hall to be built.
Agreement has been reached between Buxted Parish and Wealden District councils which confirms the hall can be built, provided the old Reading Room community centre ceases to operate.
The problem cropped up when a new Habitats Regulations ruling was introduced four years ago preventing businesses, new homes or community projects being set up within seven kilometres of the Forest. It was brought in, said the council, to prevent nitrogen from vehicles damaging flora and fauna but also helped restrict the scale of Wealden’s overall housing development imposed by the former Government.
Buxted found itself in a difficult situation, with a new GP centre already under construction and plans already advanced to create a new hall alongside.
Although formal planning consent was given, the village must subscribe to conditions which mean the the old Reading Room site cannot be developed and must remain ‘sterile’ to satisfy planning regulations.
Now the scheme has the official go-ahead. All that’s needed is the cash to pay for it.
The new building will comprise two halls, one large and one small - and both can be joined together for larger events. It is planned to be 312 square metres of floor area topped by a mainly ‘green’ sedum roof and provide a new access onto the Framfield Road. There will also be an informal reception and lobby area and possibly a cafe.
Sheila Bartholomew, secretary of the Hall’s Community Trust, said: “We are delighted to have obtained permission but it is not ideal. Because of the ruling we cannot sell the old hall to help fund the new. We must raise a large amount of money and it is going to be a long haul. It has been a hard road already after planning had been well advanced before this scheme came in. The parish council has been superb. We all hope that common sense will eventually prevail.”
Fundraising continues with a charity dinner at the Buxted Inn on March 18, a ball at Buxted Park Hotel on May 8 and a concert by the Tunbridge Wells-based Orpheus Male Voice Choir at St Margaret’s Church on June 13. There are open gardens in May, a Buxted fete, fashion shows, auctions, raffles and quiz nights.