Dairy site windfall could include village hall

THERE could be some compensation for the village of Fenstanton after it loses 250 Dairy Crest jobs in November – a site for a new village hall.

The company, which announced last week that it planned to close the site of the former Keith Wright Limited dairy that was founded in 1926, refused this week to disclose what it planned to do with the site until the 90-day consultation period with staff and unions was over.

But Huntingdonshire planners are determined not to lose the whole area to housing, but to retain employment there.

The dairy’s closure could also solve the village’s quest for a site for a village hall to replace the run-down building in Chequer Street that closed a decade ago and was subsequently demolished to make way for a pair of houses.

Planners at Huntingdonshire District Council acknowledged that developers would be eyeing up the brownfield site for housing, but said they would be keen to retain an employment element because it is so close to the A14.

Head of planning services Steve Ingram said he was proposing to prepare design guidance for the area that includes the dairy site “to show some positivity to prospective interested parties if it’s marketed”.

He envisaged a mix of uses including housing, employment and the sought-after village hall.

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The possibility that a new hall could be included in redevelopment plans had also occurred to the village hall committee, according to its vice-chairman David Mead. But he stressed that the committee was already exploring other sites.

Mr Mead, by day a professional planner, said the closure of the dairy would offer an opportunity to open up the village High Street. “It would ne nice to create a bigger public realm,” he said. “You can no longer see into the site from the High Street, with all the milk floats, as we used to.”

HDC’s executive leader, Councillor Jason Ablewhite, told The Hunts Post: “One of the strict guidelines we have is that [the redevelopment] must be employment-led. But it’s quite a difficult site because of the proximity of the A14.

“A village hall would be hugely beneficial to the people of Fenstanton, and ideally we would want something that employed 200 people.”