By Brendan Rees
After 26 years a community group has been left homeless after being given its marching orders to vacate the Arthur Wren Hall in Hampton Park.
The Hampton Park Progress Association (HPPA), which runs the hall and has been serving the community for 94 years, has been ordered to close by Casey Council by Saturday 1 March.
Managers of the HPPA, which hosts the biggest free Australia Day celebrations in Casey, said “it was a very sad situation” with council offering “nothing, not even office space” nor funds to relocate elsewhere.
Council said its decision was made to pave the way for the development of the Hampton Park Central Development Plan.
The HPPA’s vice president Vanassa Gerdes confirmed it was told to pack up and leave the hall on Stuart Avenue after receiving a 30-day notice of termination regarding its licence agreement from council in January.
“The last biggest thing that’s owned by the community and ran by the community is now going to be council ran,” Ms Gerdes said, adding the Association would fight to get its $180,000 back which was contributed to the construction of the hall in 1994.
“We tried to let them have the opportunity to do the right thing.
“I wonder where community spirit is or are we trying to eliminate volunteers?”
However HPPA, which was created in 1926, said it was remaining defiant, vowing it “won’t be going anywhere” and will “still be out servicing the community”.
Casey Council director of community life Steve Coldham said while it appreciated the efforts of the hard working volunteers, consultation was undertaken with the HPPA when council was in the early stages of developing the Hampton Park Central Community Precinct Master Plan – and the Association was “made aware” of the plans for council to take on management of this facility in July last year.
“In order to progress the development of the Hampton Park Central Development Plan and Hampton Park Central Community Precinct Master Plan, the City of Casey is required to take on the management and operations of the Hall from 1 March 2020”.
Mr Coldham said the plan seeks to meet the growing needs of the community and drive the revitalisation of the surrounding Hampton Park Activity Centre, while making the “best use” of council-owned land.
“The Master Plan proposes revitalised community facilities and buildings with a variety of community spaces; a town square which celebrates the significant River Red Gum tree; and a main street to improve the street network in Hampton Park Central.
“Council officers will continue to work closely with the members of the Hampton Park Progress Association and will support them to transition their services to either Robert Booth Reserve, which they own, or another facility within Hampton Park identified for their future use,” Mr Coldham said.
Meanwhile, Joy Reedy, the wife of the late Ken Reedy, a legend and advocate of the Arthur Wren Hall, said she was saddened by the news, adding Mr Reedy “would not be happy HPPA now has no home to go to”.