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Rowhedge Pump House – Press release

There have been a number of developments since the public meeting in July to discuss the future of the old Pump House. The following is a press release on the latest situation issued by the Rowhedge Heritage Trust.

The old Pump House for Rowhedge Heritage Centre

The planning application in May by Hills Residential to demolish the Pump House, (which occupied a small part of a plot on which they wanted to build twenty houses), received in the region of 150 objections, and prompted the Rowhedge Heritage Trust (RHT) to open up negotiations with Hills with a view to purchase the building for use as a Heritage Centre and community building.
In June, Hills offered the building to the RHT for £120k, and set a deadline of mid-September for the RHT to take up the option to purchase. In discussions between the RHT secretary, Keith Phillips, and Hills, the RHT specifically asked for, and received verbal confirmation, that the September date did not mean the money was needed at that point, but a firm commitment to proceed was required.
At a public meeting on the 18 July, the proposal to use the building as a Heritage Centre and public facility received strong support from the 80+ who attended. The proposal also received backing from our Ward Councillor Mike Lilley and a number of Parish Councillors.  The Parish Council also objected to the original planning application for its demolition.
There were still several uncertainties concerning the site boundaries, possible contamination, and eventual public access. The RHT set about resolving these issues in order to make an informed decision by September, whether to proceed. It also explored possible funding sources, such as the Heritage Lottery fund. 
It therefore came as a shock to the RHT when at the end of July in a letter from Hills, it became apparent that Hills were expecting completion of the deal by mid-September, including full payment. This would have been a tight schedule in a straightforward building sale, but quite impossible in this case, where even the boundary has not been agreed, and much more planning is needed before formal and convincing funding applications can be made. 
The RHT has since contacted the Colchester Borough Planning department, who had also indicated their support for the proposed use of the building, to inform them of this development and discuss the current situation. As yet, Hills does not have permission for the scheme to build the 20 housing units (which includes the demolition of the Pump House). Hills has indicated that if the sale to the RHT went ahead, they would submit a revised plan of 19 units and the Pump House would be saved.
We hope that continued public support to save the Pump House, and for the viable community use proposed by the RHT, may persuade Hills to accept a more reasonable timetable with which to complete the sale. In the meantime, in order to prepare for any eventuality, the RHT is exploring funding sources, a valuation and condition survey, support from ward Councillors, and continuing to be open to negotiate with Hills.
For more information contact Keith Phillips; Secretary, Rowhedge Heritage Trust.