Vestry Rooms consultation

May 16th 2024

The Vestry Rooms, situated in Fore Street, is a Grade II listed building owned by St Erth Parish Council which is exhibiting significant issues such as damp penetration, woodworm activity, severe timber decay, and a deteriorating roof.  It is currently not used by the Council for meetings both due to its relatively small sized meeting space and state of disrepair.  It has also recently been subject to a break-in.  Given its current state, and the associated ongoing utility costs which need to be met from the parish precept, the Council is faced with urgently needing to make a decision regarding the future of the property.  As this building is owned by the Council, and is therefore a community asset, the Council wishes to consult our residents and get your feedback before any action is taken.

To facilitate a future for the building the Council has carried out an options appraisal to assess its options for the Vestry Rooms, which can be found here and which was discussed in the open session of the monthly meeting held on 9th April.  These included restoration, change of use and even demolition, although the latter was quickly dismissed due to the historical significance of the building.  Pros and cons for each option were considered, as were the potential costs to parish residents of each.

As a result of lengthy discussions, the Council’s preferred option is to enable the best use and care of the building in the future, address a community need for housing, and release funding for investment in future community assets, by applying for planning permission for change of use to convert the building to residential use and sell with permission in place.  The rationale for picking this option over others are as follows:

  • the building will be restored and will get the best chance of being maintained in the future;
  • the building currently sits within a residential area so would fit with the locality;
  • the outer character of the building would be retained;
  • it would generate a significant amount of money that must be used to fund other capital projects that would benefit the community;
  • it avoids significant costs for both repair and maintenance for residents, for relatively little benefit (more detail below).

Councillors are very aware of the historical significance of the building to many in the community and intend to capture the cultural heritage of the building in an appropriate way.

We are therefore asking you to give us your feedback on this proposal, either by scanning the QR code below and completing an online survey, writing to us at the Vestry Rooms or picking up a paper survey from St Erth Village Store.  All responses must be received no later than 31st May 2024 to be considered.  If you are struggling to respond by then please advise the Clerk on clerk@sterth-pc.gov.uk.

Further Detail on Costs and Other Considerations Given:

Restoring the building to bring it back into regular use will be very costly.  Unless the Council can get a significant grant to carry out this work it will need to apply for a Public Works Loan.  This would need to be paid back via an increase in precept, which is likely to be at least 25% per household.  The Council is very mindful about the cost of services to residents and this has been a major factor in its consideration of the options.  To obtain a grant or otherwise justify this level of expense from the public purse, the building would need to have a defined and reasonable level of community use other than just by the Parish Council for monthly meetings.  However, as is clear from our recent survey, there have been no external enquiries to use the Vestry Rooms in a number of years, and there are a number of other buildings that the community can and do use including the Old School Rooms, the Methodist Chapel, St Erth Primary School and the Star Inn which provide larger, more usable and, importantly, more accessible spaces.  It is therefore very difficult to justify the need for this level of funding over other community programmes when completing grant application forms.

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