Reading Rooms

Reading Rooms

Ermington Reading Rooms are situated on the main road from Ivybridge on the way into the village just at the top of Bunkers Hill. Ermington Parish Council is currently reviewing its decision to refurbish and extend the Reading Rooms in Ermington village for use as its village hall. Details are set out in the letter reproduced in its entirety below:

A LETTER FROM ERMINGTON PARISH COUNCIL March 2015

Dear Parishioners

New Village Hall – An Update

The plan to refurbish and extend the Reading Rooms has now been on the agenda for some time. The plan, which has been pursued actively since 2011, involves the purchase of land adjacent to the Reading Rooms and extending the building towards the War Memorial.

It may seem to some parishioners that nothing has happened for some months. Please be assured that many people have been busy on your behalf gathering facts and figures in order to move the project forward.

Over the course of progressing the project a key concern raised time and again by both parishioners and councillors alike has been the availability of parking. The consistent argument used is that a village hall without parking limits its use by potential users. This raises an important area of difficulty. The ability of the Parish Council to rent the building as a source of income is crucial to the need to minimise net running costs as any deficit will have to be met by Ermington parishioners through council tax. Furthermore a village hall for the parishioners of Ermington has to be usable by all parishioners and parking will be a key issue in that respect. The planning authority has emphatically ruled out an earlier suggestion that a portion of the land adjacent to the Reading Rooms could be used for parking.

Following representations from parishioners at a council meeting last September the opportunity was taken to explore potential solutions to the parking problem. A group of councillors and a parishioner looked at the problem during a short survey. As a result a potential solution arose which would involve using the recreation area in the lower part of the village. Subsequent discussions have been held with the planning authority to define more precisely what might be possible.

What is the current position?

The legal arrangements for the purchase of the field adjacent to the Reading Rooms are almost complete subject to a final discussion before signing them off. A great deal of work has gone into the preparation of the plans for the Reading Rooms in conjunction with the landscaping arrangements for the field. These plans are ready for formal submission to planning. We now know that the cost of our plans for the Reading Rooms will be high.

These plans have, however, been put on ice pending the discussion of other options. This is a bold move by the Parish Council. It will not find favour with all parishioners and we understand that. However, the decision we make on the provision of a village hall is a huge one involving a large amount of money. We would, as a parish council, be found wanting if we made a decision now that could be challenged on grounds of lack of proper consideration of all the facts including financial viability.

What about the money that has already been raised in the parish?

A sum in excess of £11000 has been raised in the community. £20000 has been provided from the developers of the “The Spires” housing under the Town and Country Planning Act as a “Market” contribution to the continuance of Ermington Sustainable Saturdays. This has enabled the council to ring fence £32000 in its accounts to purchase the field for the extension of the Reading Rooms. If we decide to build a village hall on the recreation area the £20000 would follow the project. A decision would then have to be made on whether or not the parish still wished to purchase the field and how the money raised in the community should be used.

What happens next?

A land survey of the recreation area will be undertaken and outline plans will be drawn up. Further discussions will then take place with the planning authorities and other bodies that need to be consulted.

Will parishioners be involved in the process?

Yes. The forward plan envisages the creation of a sub-committee consisting of parish councillors and parishioners. This will be done once we have reached a point where we know we can move forward with a viable alternative to the existing plans for the Reading Rooms. We will be looking for parishioners with the time to spend on specific tasks set out in a schedule. For example we will need to research sources of income, grant providers, the needs of potential users and so on.

Will parishioners be formally consulted?

Yes. We will canvass the views of parishioners when we have firmly established the options available. We shall be looking to obtain a response from a high percentage of parishioners so that we know exactly where we stand as a parish council.

The facts of the options available will be put to parishioners. This will include the pros and cons of both options with estimates of costs and the impact on council tax.

Can You help?

If you have time to give freely to the parish please let us know, particularly if you have skills in market research or have worked on reasonably sized projects – but that is not necessarily a pre-requisite so don’t be put off if you don’t have that background. Teresa Drew the Parish Clerk will be happy to take your details as a willing volunteer. Teresa can be contacted on 01752 893691, E-mail: ermingtonparishclerk@gmail.com.

Any questions?

Feel free to ask any councillor. We will in any event endeavor to keep you updated as matters progress.

Yours sincerely

Ermington Parish Council

Cllrs: John Kerslake, Roy Hartwell, Marina Auburn, John Bower, Lesley Crocker, Grant Elliott, Kate Holliday, Ian Walsh, Diane Webley.