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Outrage over sale of Pennington WI hall, with guide price of £750,000

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CONTROVERSIAL plans to sell a community hall in the centre of Pennington village have sparked outrage from local residents who say it should be saved.

The WI hall, located on a corner plot fronting Ramley Road, Yaldhurst Lane and Lodge Road, is being marketed through Woolley & Wallace estate agents with a guide price of £750,000.

Pennington town councillor Jack Davies said residents had expressed concerns about losing a community facility and wanted the hall to be retained for the village. He has requested the town council meet to consider listing it as an Asset of Community Value.

Pennington WI hall is on the market for £750,000
Pennington WI hall is on the market for £750,000

He told the A&T: "My understanding is that it would cost around £250,000 to get the hall up to public ownership standards. I believe community assets should stay within the community."

Fellow town councillor Colm McCarthy, added: "The WI hall was gifted to the community. It should stay in the hands of the community."

A spokesperson for Lymington and Pennington Town Council told the A&T an emergency meeting had been arranged to discuss the request and would take place on Tuesday (1st June).

Pennington resident Laurie Hunt said he was saddened to see the hall was up for sale, and had fond memories of attending school prize-giving ceremonies and drama productions there as a child.

"As a Pennington lad in the '50s, I went to many activities going on at the hall," he said. "There were jumble sales and the church fête was held there.

"I know things change over the years but I'm surprised villagers were not asked for their views on this. We've already lost a pub, The Lamb, and the paper shop; we're slowly losing places that are at the heart of the village and soon it will just be a place you drive through with nothing of interest to see.

"It may be that the community wants to pull together to buy the hall and save a piece of the village's history – they may not be interested at all but I think it's worth asking the question before it's sold off for development."

Pennington WI, formed in 1923, used to meet regularly at the hall for talks, meetings, quizzes, lunches and fundraising events. It has a fully functioning kitchen, a stage, garden and parking.

In a book published in 1990 by Joan Stephens, who lived her entire life in Pennington, a reproduction of an early postcard image of the hall states it was built at a cost of approximately £1,800 in memory of their first treasurer, Lady Nora Brand, wife of Rear Admiral Sir Hubert Brand. The hall was officially opened on 14th October 1925 by Miss Helen Fullerton.

Before the pandemic, the hall was used by slimming groups and for exercise sessions, and could be hired for events.

One resident has spoken on social media of her desire to buy the hall to keep it for community use and has set up a Facebook group, 'Trying to save Pennington WI hall'. So far the group has around 45 members.

Sarah Collison wrote: "I was very surprised that a community building was for sale with 'potential property development' on the for sale sign. I can see a lot of potential to bring the hall back to life for the community to allow many people to use it. There have been many people interested in using it, and we would love for this to happen."

Pennington WI were unavailable for comment when approached by the A&T, but a post on its Facebook page states it will continue to run despite the proposed sale of its headquarters.

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