Since the first Public Meeting in October 2010 we have been actively campaigning to stop the sale of land entrusted to the Greig Trust in 1953 by the then Alcester Rural District Council. The land was sold to the Trust for a token amount and with a lawful and binding Covenant attached to safeguard future use. The Covenant restricts the use of the land to community use only!
Following a steady decline for more than a decade of their financial circumstances, the Trust, acting under the guidance of Trebor Development, a prominent property developer, offered to sell the land to a housing contstruction company Bellway Homes, with the aim of re-siting all community facilities housed in the Greig Hall within a new extension to the current sports hall. This was to be funded by the sale of the land and would entail the demolition of the existing Community Hall "The Greig Hall", the Caretakers cottage, squash court, multi games area, and a variety of outbuildings to make space for the development of 35 high end residential properties.
Immediately after the 2010 Public Meeting a concerned group of Residents formed a community group GHAC (Greig Hall Action Committee) with the aim of finding an alternative solution to the housing development plan. They worked hard researching and sourcing different data and figures and visited different community organisations to help develop a viable Proposal/Business Plan. The Proposal, "A Community Initiative", was then carefully scrutinised and verified by independent professionals in planning, finance and business. The initiative proposed a Community run facility, which would not only safeguard the future of the site and Hall, but would ensure that the Town had the ability to expand, adapt and respond to the needs of a growing and diverse community. It would give the community a greater sense of responsibility and greater autonomy in self governance, applying for grants and rebuilding key relationships with both the local and district councils.
However, the Trust refused to look at alternative proposals, despite continually publicising their preferred option as "Retaining the Hall and Land" and in December 2010, using a planning consultancy firm specialising in "difficult green belt” planning applications, Green Planning Solutions Llp, the Greig Trust submitted a lengthy and in-depth planning application to Stratford District Council.
In addition to satisfying the various planning, community and conservation criteria, the removal of the original Covenant would be necessary for the sale and development to go ahead and talks ensued between the Trust, Stratford District Council and Alcester Town Council. Both the Local and District Council had invested and loaned a considerable amount of community money in the Greig Centre as a whole over the past few decades and the proposed development fell outside of the terms in which this had been given and/or loaned. Meanwhile the Community responded to the development plans and re-siting of community facilities by signing petitions and sending in letters of objection.
OVER 1,460 OBJECTIONS WERE COLLECTED FROM RESIDENTS AND SUBMITTED TO STRATFORD DISTRICT COUNCIL before the Deadline of 8th February 2011, with over 100 more Objections submitted on-line!
In August 2011 following the departure of the Greig Centre Manager, the Trust forced the closure of the hall and the few remaining User Groups moved elsewhere.
8th September 2011, the Stratford District Council’s Area West Planning Committee agreed to hold the planning meeting in Alcester to consider and decide on the Trusts planning application. It had taken 9 months to reach this stage. Over 300 people were able to sit in on the meeting with many more being turned away due to lack of space. After hearing representations from both sides the Committee were unanimous in their decision to Refuse the application, with a recommendation that all parties concerned should meet to discuss how best to move forward.
Following this outcome it was hoped that the Trust would finally be prepared to sit down with GHAC and work through a strategy beneficial to all concerned, using the community proposal as a basis. Throughout the country, as the recession dug in and Councils were forced to make cuts in funding, more and more communities were having to take control of facilities and services. Bolstered by a wind of change and an increase in outside funding and grants aimed at autonomous community led organisations and in particular community facilities, those communities that took up the challenge found it profitable and rewarding.
Two meetings were finally arranged by ATC between the Trustees, Alcester Town Council and GHAC.
Both meetings were extremely difficult and disappointing, with the acting Chair of the Trust insisting the Community Group representatives absent themselves partway through while financial affairs were discussed. The end result only emphasised the Trusts disinclination to engage and work more closely with the Community and Local Council at grass roots level and this has continued despite their statements in the press to the contrary.
The Greig Hall remains closed.... but the Community remains active in their endeavours to re-open it!
"OVER 1,460 PEOPLE MADE THEIR OPINION MATTER - DON'T WASTE IT!"
Join the Discussion @
(This is an Initiative run by Community Volunteers – if you’d like to help out please let us know!)