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How the Annexe idea began

5th November 2017 @ 6:06am – by Bob Cartwright
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As the opening of the new Public Hall Annexe looms this month, it's worth looking back a few years to see how the idea for this splendid new building arose and developed.

Many readers will recall the two Parish Plans published in 2005 and 2010. A year before the first Plan, Mike Hill, then chairman of Audlem Parish Council, was tasked to find a group of volunteers who would take on what seemed an onerous task – taking two to three years finding out what the people of Audlem wanted for their village.

After something of a struggle, he managed to gather together six somewhat puzzled individuals into the Public Hall committee room – three men of retirement age and three much younger women in busy jobs – plus an advisor from Cheshire Community Action who explained why parishes across the country were starting to produce Parish Plans.

By luck or good planning, we found that the skills and qualifications amongst the group were ideal for the job in hand. I was the only one without any relevant skills so, naturally, became chairman! Being impatient by nature, and used to a fast-moving business environment, the first decision was that Audlem would complete its plan in a year rather than the recommended 2 – 3 years.

We also worked out our own way of conducting the exercise:

  • A quick survey amongst friends and neighbours to identify the key issues
  • a questionnaire to every household
  • a call for volunteers who then made up working groups each tackling a key issue
  • consultation
  • writing and designing a report that would be printed and distributed to every home which included a detailed Action Plan.

As far as the Annexe was concerned, the key Working Group in 2010 was 'Youth & Education' made up of Kerry Betterley; George Cooper; Pete Marshall; Shirleeann Southall Martin; Calum Muirhead (Chair); Kate Parkes (Steering Group member); Mike Waldron and Danny Yates.

Their main suggestion was:
"Young people depend more than adults on their immediate neighbourhood for their social life and much of what was being expressed through both the questionnaires and anecdotally could be tackled by giving our young people a permanent place to call their own. From this deceptively simple premise, 'Operation Hut' was born and the notion of focusing energetically on a single issue was conceived.

"The proposed project aims to provide a modest, functional, sustainable and attractive structure, within 2 years if possible, to be used as a Youth Drop- In/Club for Y6 (age 10/11) and upwards."

Most Parish Plans, we had been told, fail because nobody ensures the Action Plans are completed. So, after the 2005 Plan was published, we had set up a Community Projects Group. That met regularly for over ten years and saw a grand total of twenty six projects through to completion.

'Operation Hut' was on the agenda regularly and a major step forward was made when someone, I cannot remember who, said the land behind the Public Hall, could be bought for a nominal sum from Cheshire East and would be an ideal site.

Now, I have to bring my wife in at this point. I mentioned Operation Hut to her. Helen is Audlem born and raised and so I, as an incomer of only thirty seven years standing, took notice as she said you cannot put a hut in a key location like that – if anything goes there, it has to be a decent building.

I reported this local view back to the Community Projects Group and we then made a key decision. This was too big a project for us and a new group was needed involving other interested parties: as well as the newly formed Youth Club; the 5As Theatre Group; Audlem FC (who needed changing rooms); ADCA (who were soon to be losing their accommodation at Thornton House) and the Public Hall committee.

But who was to get all this going. Eyes immediately turned to Roland Hall, one of the Group – and with his surname clearly the person to take on building a new hall! Two other members of the Community Projects Group, John Tilling and Monique Hollinshead, 'volunteered' to help Roland.

This all took place, if I remember correctly, in 2013. Since then, the APHAx committee, as they called themselves, and still led by Roland Hall, has worked tirelessly and effectively to achieve what will be the most significant project in generations in Audlem.

On November 18th at the Grand Opening, I will quietly toast APHAx's success, but I won't forget those members of the 'Youth and Education' Working Group who, in 2010, came up with the idea of 'Operation Hut'. As you can see from the photo, it's some hut!

This article is from our news archive. As a result pictures or videos originally associated with it may have been removed and some of the content may no longer be accurate or relevant.

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