Survey results – Vestry Rooms Consultation

June 13th 2024

Following the parish wide consultation that was carried out by St Erth Parish Council (SEPC) recently regarding the Vestry Rooms Capital Project we had 91 responses, both via the Google online form (72.5%) and via paper copies (27.5%).  These responses have been amalgamated and the key points will be considered as part of this report.

Q1 – Everyone who responded to the survey lives in St Erth parish.

Q2 – 75.8% of respondents answered that they would prefer to release over £100,000 through the sale of the Vestry Rooms that would be used to fund other capital community projects to benefit parish residents than have a 25% increase in their precept so that the Vestry Rooms could be renovated and retained as a community asset.

Q3 – This question asked why people selected the option that they did in Q2.

Comments made to support the sale and release funds to use on other projects included:

  • ‘I concur with the Parish Council’s assessment.’
  • ‘Ridiculous to pay the amount of money needed to satisfy Listing Building requirements; let a private owner do it through choice.’
  • ‘I think the footfall to visit the Vestry Rooms is just not likely to be there to warrant the costs involved to repair and maintain.’
  • ‘There are sufficient, suitably sized, accessible facilities already in existence for community use in the Parish.’
  • ‘The money from a sale could be invested in many community projects to hopefully enhance existing infrastructure.’ 

A number of people felt that Q2 was unfairly worded, and of the 24.2% who chose the other option, i.e. to have a 25% increase in precept so that the Vestry Rooms could be renovated and retained as a community asset, comments included:

  • ‘I think the option for it to remain as a community asset should be further explored … an option for the building to be transferred to a community group should be further investigated.’
  • ‘Because the Vestry Rooms are the property of the villages and should be used by them.’
  • ‘We should look for Heritage Funding for this Grade 2 listed building.’
  • ‘The Village and its past are cherished by many people.  Having a central dedicated place to preserve and share the amazing history of the village would be a great asset.’

Q4 – A wide range of ideas were suggested as to what the money could be used for should a sale take place including: youth provision, riverbank repairs, raised flower beds, basketball court, tree planting, CCTV, Vicarage Gate play area, car parking, reinstate a community field, housing, benches, EV Charging points, footbridge.  For those who didn’t want to see it sold answers included suggestions for what the Vestry Rooms could be used for if retained which included a help centre with volunteers giving the community advice on a range of subjects, a heritage centre, meeting rooms for small community groups, museum, hireable space for hot desking.

Q5 – Of the 12 people who expressed an interest in taking part in a project to gather historical information regarding the Vestry Rooms to preserve for future generations, unfortunately only three gave contact details, and no one was prepared to lead on this.  A further 29 advised they ‘maybe’ interested but again only half left contact details.

Summary

The results of the survey show that whilst the majority of the community are supportive of SEPC’s preferred option to sell the building, the heritage of the building is very important and people don’t want to see that lost, something SEPC concurs with.  It should be remembered that the fabric of the building would still be retained and preserved going down this route of selling, as the building is Grade 2 listed therefore any plans would need to take this into account.

The results of the survey also show that the majority of the community would be unhappy if SEPC itself were to spend more money and resources on the building, both in terms of renovation, and ongoing maintenance and management costs, if it were to be converted and retained. However, SEPC has listened to all the responses received and would like to invite anyone that would be interested in forming a community group to acquire the building and undertake a renovation project to retain the building as a community asset, other than by SEPC, to contact the Clerk no later than 15th July 2024 to submit an initial expression of interest.  For this to be taken forward, the group will need to be able to show that it would have a viable way of funding the renovation and how it would manage the running costs going forwards.  Please note if you have any queries the Clerk is now on annual leave but will respond to any emails on her return to work on 24th June.

Due to the ongoing deterioration of the building and ever-increasing utility costs, time is now of a critical nature and decisions need to be made and acted on as a matter of urgency to secure  the future of the building and this will be an agenda item for discussion at the SEPC meeting on 6th August.

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