Unwanted Thurrock Council community halls up for grabs

Thurrock groups will get a once-in-a-lifetime chance to snap up a raft of community halls as the council looks to ditch buildings it no longer needs.

Communities will be given first refusal on three children’s centres, ten scout halls, 19 village halls and seven pubs in the latest round of shedding council owned assets which have become surplus to requirements.

Scout and other groups will be able to take over the freeholds of the buildings they use and the council wants to hear ideas for any of the empty properties available.

The list includes Aveley Children’s Centre in Stifford Road, the children’s centre at Stanford Primary School in Copland Road and Purfleet Children’s Centre in Centurion Way.

Belhus Village Hall in Daiglen Drive, South Ockendon and Brand Groves Community Hall in Brandon Groves Avenue, South Ockendon are also on the list for disposal, along with several plots of land.

The council says it will save on upkeep, maintenance and administration costs and community groups will have access to funding that was previously unavailable because they don’t own the buildings. Buildings that can’t transferred will be sold.

Speaking about the community transfer scheme at a cabinet meeting on Wednesday, Mark Coxshall, councillor responsible for regeneration strategic planning and external relationships, said: “This is the best way to have community buildings in safe hands for generations to come. Volunteers are best to deliver good services to the residents, better than any public body can ever do.

“Time and time again I’ve been asked by village halls and other assets if they can own the building they are in and now they can. The future of these buildings is in the hands of the community and that’s where they should stay.”

Speaking at the corporate overview and scrutiny committee on Tuesday, John Kent, leader of the Labour Group had some reservations. He said: “I really applaud the sentiment behind the idea of allowing those halls to go to a community organisation that is well-equipped and well able to continue managing them and organisations with some capacity behind them.

“I’m really not sure that’s the case for village halls. In the last two years the local authority has had to spend £200,000 on the maintenance and fabric of village halls. I don’t know that the various village hall committees community groups have the wherewithal to be able do that.”

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Christine Sexton

Local Democracy Reporter