Many of you will have heard through the Press or the village grapevine that the Parish Council is negotiating with the Fire Service over the possibility of purchasing of the old fire station from them. I wanted to take this opportunity through “Halling View” to tell you exactly what is going on.
As background, we were enormously proud of our parish when we all came together to fight the proposals to close the Fire Station. Many of us unashamedly shed a tear when the fire engine made its last journey through the village thereby severing over 100 years of service to the community. The outpouring of emotion on that day was almost overwhelming.
The opportunity has now arisen to save the old fire station for community use. I should point out here though that the Press use of the term “Community Centre” is incorrect because we already have an excellent one of those.
Chances like this crop up all too rarely but it is probably once in less than the average lifetime that one emerges with money being made available to achieve it. That purchase would be funded from something called a Section 106 payment, which is made by developers towards local services when they activate a planning permission. The bulk of the cash goes to major public services such as education, highways, etc, but after pressure from your parish council and the developers themselves, we understand that cash has been set aside for the purchase. This remains to be formally confirmed to us but it is worth stressing that the finance will only be available for the stated purpose of buying the old fire station.
As well as acquiring the building and land, we have also been asked to consider housing the Kent Fire Service Museum. All the exhibits are currently held in storage since an original proposal to open a museum at Chatham Historical Dockyard fell through. The County exhibits would be supplemented by local Halling memorabilia so that the memories of where dad or granddad was based when he helped to keep us safe can be preserved for future generations.
Before anyone gets too excited, the “but” part of this article is coming now. We are very excited by the possibilities I have described, but at the end of the day, it has to be, not only right for Halling, but sustainable in the longer term. That is what we are working on now and we see the site also offering a limited amount of extra off street parking for local residents, office and meeting room space and a small catering outlet which would be particularly attractive during the summer months (if we get any!).
In the event that we are unable to proceed with the project, the site will be sold by the Fire Service on the open market and will almost certainly be used for housing.
We will keep you in the picture and we believe that this is what our community would want us to do if we can make it work for us.
Chairman Halling PC