Church says it will never give social centre back

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A church, which has taken a social centre from a community to put a development in its place, has told the people who used it even if planning permission isn’t granted they will not get their hall back.

Secretary of Tring Team Parish Church Council Ted Oram made the statement to a full chamber of residents and councillors at the Tring Town Council meeting on Monday night.

Scores of people turned out to express strong objections against the planning application that would see New Mill Social Centre demolished to make room for six houses - one of which will house a chaplain for Tring School.

Mr Oram said: “If this planning application was turned down and after that the appeal was also turned down we would not go back to the status quo. We have a legal responsibility and we would not be able to allow the hall to continue. We won’t go back whatever happens.”

He later explained that being a registered charity, the church has a legal responsibility to use its assets in the best way it can to meet its constitution, which is promoting The Gospel.

More than 12 people at the meeting objected to the development. One of the reasons was because of the parking problems it would cause and one neighbour expressed concern for the church because he believed people would boycott it if the plans went ahead.

The main reason people were against the plan was because of the loss of the 100-year-old community facility but councillor John Allan pointed out that this fact could scupper the church’s plans.

He said: “Policy 68 in planning regulation states that planning permission will not be granted for a development which would result in the loss of a viable community facility.”

The hall was used by about 20 groups every week before they were given notice to leave last year.

Ward councillor for the area Georgina Haynes said: “I have three years worth of diaries that show the hall was used and I have more than 30 letters of objection from local residents.”

The council refused the application, which will now go before the planning committee at Dacorum Borough Council.

Social centre supporter Paul Messenger said: “I can see the church’s position but I still stand that the hall should be there forever and a day and I didn’t like Mr Oram’s attitude when he said whether they got planning permission or not they were not going to give the hall back.

“I wasn’t very happy. They are not trying to work with the community at all. It’s against he community if they are going to leave it to rack and ruin until they get planning permission.”