Hello everyone,

We need your ideas and thoughts about the village hall

Government policies in respect of the covid epidemic have meant that our village hall has been completely closed for events since March. We have received a grant of £10,000 to support us through this period and we have received excellent support from ‘ACRE’ (Assisting Communities in Rural England). They have sent me regular updates and their latest, dated 20th July, gave precise details of the route map back to the reopening of village halls which has been legally permitted since 4th July.

The events we are likely to host are in the group 2 category, and these are permissible in the stage 3 release from lockdown. We have been at this stage since 11th July. Stage 4 was due to come into action on 25th July but this was cancelled.

Regardless of activity, we can only re open if we provide a ‘Covid Secure Environment’, which means we must adhere to 5 key points:

  1. Minimise Contact.
  2. Hand Washing.
  3. Respiratory Hygiene.
  4. Regular cleaning of frequently touched surfaces.
  5. Maintain social distancing where possible.

The committee has reviewed these policies and we are confident that we can take the measures required to self certify the village hall as ‘covid secure’ and many of the required steps have already been taken.

Our greatest difficulty lies with maintaining social distancing. This will require a degree of stewarding and we have no experience of this. For this reason we decided that we could not proceed with the planned music concert as this would be our first event and we decided that we should hold smaller more easily managed events so that we gain some experience on how social distancing, one way systems etc work within the village hall.

Capacity for indoor events is strictly limited to 1 person per 4sq. metre. This limits us to a maximum of 15 people within the main hall, one person in the kitchen (more if they are from the same household / bubble) and 5 in the room next to the kitchen.

This clearly is very restrictive, but outdoors there are no such limits so long as the aforementioned 5 key points are adhered to. The committee have therefore decided to use some of our grant to invest in a high quality professional marquee which will be erected in the front garden. It cannot be completely enclosed even though it has this potential but it does mean that we will be able to shelter people from rain and the worse winds. By doing this we can begin to host events and we plan to stage our first coffee morning on Saturday 22nd August. Providing this goes to plan we will organise a picnic on Monday 31st August (Bank Holiday Monday). Exact details will be provided in the next few days. We will then review in detail how the management of the events complied with the regulations and if we have been successful, we will move to the next phase of re opening, which will include allowing the hall to be hired and also hosting larger events.

At our meeting last week the committee discussed the condition of the village hall building and the issues that face us. In 2008 a detailed survey of the village hall was commissioned and this identified the cause of many of the problems that are ongoing. Some people may remember that at about this time the hall had to close while an unstable and unsafe gable end had to be repaired. This repair took place in 2011 using cash reserves and a grant from Northumberland County Council.

Between 2011 and 2016 the committee was very successful in obtaining grants and keeping the hall open, in 2009 we had a cash surplus of about £11,000 but most of this has gone and we do not generate enough income to establish a ‘sinking fund’ of any size in a reasonable time frame. A dilemma we face is that to generate more income we need to improve the hall but we cannot do this without more activity and associated revenue.

We have discussed the possibilities of gaining substantial grants with our local village hall advisers and the advice received is not very good. Significant grants are rarely given for just maintenance or refurbishment, they must be linked to specific projects.

A review of the building’s current condition, referencing the 2008 survey, has been carried out. This suggests that the cost of dealing with the defects noted in the survey would be about £180,000, this level of expense is a long way beyond what we could hope to raise through grants etc.

At present there is no reason to believe that the hall will suddenly have to close like it did in 2009 but the ongoing damp in the roof, walls and subfloor means that the condition of the hall is deteriorating and at some point this will need to be addressed to prevent ultimate closure.

We believe that it is important that the community considers the current situation and provides some feedback to the committee with regard to what they want from the village hall and how changes could be funded.

Over the next few weeks please let us know your ideas and thoughts, we will use this information to evaluate options and report back to the community.

Best wishes ~ John Roberts
14th August

John Roberts

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