Juniper Green Village Hall closes over safety fears

A POPULAR village hall has been closed until further notice amid safety concerns.

Friday, 6th May 2016, 6:01 am
Updated Friday, 6th May 2016, 7:12 am
A group of concerned hall-users from the community assemble outside the Juniper Green Village Hall. Picture: Neil Hanna

City chiefs took the ­emergency action following the discovery of a “fault” in the gable wall of the Juniper Green Village Hall.

The council-owned venue, which has been at the heart of village life for more than a century, was shut hours after engineers found an issue with the west wall.

The closure was so sudden that some regular users of the hall only learned about it through social media. And community groups say they have been left with no options because the building – one of the few available to them – was shut without warning.

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Barbara Badger, treasurer of the management committee, said: “It is the only ­community resource in Juniper Green and Baberton Mains apart from the parish church.

“There is literally nothing else. We don’t even have public toilets.

“We have no library and no other community centre.”

The issue was discovered during a £70,000 city council project to upgrade windows, though users have blamed a longer-term under-investment by the authority.

The former drill hall is used by around 20 groups, ­including nurseries, dance clubs, drama classes and a farmers’ market.

Anne Bangham has run the Juniper Green School of ­Dancing from the venue for more than half a century.

But the 70-year-old only learned the hall was closing when she was advised to pack up her stuff because her class was the last.

And the news couldn’t have come at a worse time, with several students due to take their final exam next month. She said: “That wall has always moved.

“Why couldn’t they have shored it up after the summer holidays to let people find alternative sites?

“I don’t understand why they haven’t taken these ­people into consideration.

A council spokesman said the issue was discovered during a £70,000 investment project to upgrade the windows.

He said: “As part of planned works to demolish the building adjacent to the centre structural engineers identified an issue with the gable wall.

“On their advice we have temporarily closed the centre and are looking into identifying alternative venues for groups that currently use the centre.”

He added: “Further investigations are being ­carried out on the wall to determine the exact nature of the fault and how long the centre may be closed for.”