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Cafe plans for Henderson Memorial Hall, in Abbots Langley, approved
Proposals to partly change the use of an Abbots Langley hall into a cafe have been agreed by politicians.
Plans to alter Henderson Memorial Hall, in High Street, in order to build a cafe and relocate the main entrance was discussed by Three Rivers District Council last night.
The controversial application forms part of the plan to turn the hall into a community arts centre for the village.
In documents released to the planning committee, council officers recommended that politicians approve the application. Speaking against the proposals, Barrie Irvine said that 30 shop owners and 94 residents have signed the petition against the application, showing that there is "resistance" to it.
Mr Irvine said he was worried about the effect the cafe will have on existing businesses and how the Hub will impact on the make-up of the village.
He added: "Abbots Langley has a village high street full of character. It’s not faceless like other high streets where all the shops look the same, they are all different."
A summary of responses from those consulted on the application were recorded in council documents.
One of the concerns raised was that: "A further cafe would compromise the other two cafes in the High Street and council lead to destabilising of the High Street".
Simon Ash, the Hub’s project manager, was speaking for the application and said that the group conducted hundreds of short interviews with residents and hall users.
He said that one of the main issues that arose through the consultation was the "unattractive and unsafe" entrance way and that the group has sought to address these concerns and improve access for those with mobility problems.
Mr Ash added: "Our aim is to provide Abbots Langley with a combined arts centre and commitment-free social meeting space.
"This plan enables that and at the same time preserves and makes better use of a financially endangered building resource."
He explained that the project is "totally dependent" on the integration of the coffee lounge, as it will help the project financially and add a social aspect to the centre.
Mr Ash said: "It is the recognition that the engagement in social interaction, the free exchange of ideas, informal debate and the germination of an interest in the arts occurs most freely over a cuppa."
He also pointed towards other arts centres across the country that have cafes and that the group have "no intention of competing in the hot food or light meals trade in the village".
He added: "We aim only to offer a space if reflection and leisurely social interaction in an arts related environment."
He concluded by saying that over 90 per cent of the shops he spoke with in the village saw the plan as "beneficial".
A further application sought permission to install an illuminated fascia sign at the front of the building.
Mr Irvine said he had concerns that the sign will look "ugly" and will hinder the look of the old building.
Both applications were passed with all politicians agreeing with the officers’ recommendation, except Councillor Paula Hiscocks who abstained from the votes.