The Village Hall

As we all know, despite some hope last summer, for almost a year we have been unable to operate any of the events and activities that for years have brought residents of the village and wider parish together, raising funds to help maintain our village hall and expand our programmes.

As a result, the condition of the village hall has significantly deteriorated, well beyond the condition that was already a challenge to maintain at the start of 2020. Following discussions with contractors, we have been advised that the cost to refurbish the hall and secure its long-term future is in excess of £100,000.

The latest pictures from inside the village hall can be seen on our website here.

Despite the best efforts of the Committee, including discussions with grant-making organisations and the local council, we have been unable to find a way through this challenge on our own.

The Queens Head

As many of you will have seen, the Queen’s Head has been purchased and some initial refurbishment work has commenced. We have had the opportunity to meet with the new owner (Ralbos) and we are happy to confirm that their plan is to create a pub and restaurant with a small number of rooms to take advantage of the area’s appeal to holiday makers. Ralbos fully appreciate the need to engage the community and will be consulting formally with village residents in due course.

It is also reassuring that Ralbos will be looking to find a tenant who will ensure that the pub returns to its place at the heart of our community.

After many years of uncertainty, we believe this to be very good news.

A way forward

It is clear from the resident survey we carried out a few weeks ago that our community has a desire to come back together, with social and cultural events by far the most popular. You can see the results of the survey on our website.

Our discussions with the new pub owners have presented a unique opportunity for the village hall charity and our residents to realise these aims as part of the development at The Queens Head.

The pub development includes plans to build a two-story extension on the east side of the plot. The upper storey will provide additional bedrooms for the pub. The downstairs could have a variety of uses however, it has been presented as potentially, a new village hall, one that we would be able to specify internally to meet our community needs and one that the charity would have legal ownership of. The development of this space to a new village hall would be funded by the sale of the current hall to the pub developers. They have expressed a desire to convert it for residential use, securing its future and retaining many of the existing features to reflect its important history.

The committee recognises how much the current village hall means to residents, but it also recognises that the value a village hall creates is through its ability to bring a community together. This proposed solution, we believe, will ensure that the current building remains a feature in the village for many years while providing a modern, purpose built and welcoming new venue for us to re-establish and grow our programme of events.

Next steps

We must stress that planning permission has not yet been sought for any development mentioned above, nor have any negotiations taken place.

Our next steps are to consult with residents to ensure that everyone is able to share their views on this opportunity.

We would warmly welcome your feedback to help us build the future of our community.

If anyone has any queries prior to this consultation, please contact: greatwhittingtonvillagehall@gmail.com

Or contact a committee member: John Roberts, Charles Bragg, Christine Lawson, Jane Pearson, Jonny Pearce, Matt Charlton, Steve Binney, Natalie Burrow, Jonathan Sykes, Joyce Roberts: greatwhittingtonvillagehall.co.uk

In 1944 the residents of Great Whittington established a fund to support returning servicemen. At the end of the war £10 each was distributed to 10 men on their demobilisation and the remaining funds were set aside with the idea that they would go towards the purchase of a village hall. In the 1950’s a plan emerged to construct a hall on the site of what was then the bus station. This did not come to fruition and in 1972 the school hall was purchased and converted to the village hall.

From the very beginning it was clear that maintenance would be an issue managing a building that was by then more than a century old. There was never enough income to keep up with the gradual decline of the building despite people’s best efforts and in 2008 the hall had to close for safety reasons. Since then previous committee members have worked tirelessly to keep the hall alive and without their efforts the hall would now be closed and the charity would have been wound up leaving the parish without a vital community asset.

To refurbish the hall to the level where it’s long term future is secure will require an amount of money that is beyond what we could realistically raise. This means that the hall and charity are at significant risk. The committee understands the value of history and the cherished memories many people have of the current village hall. To us it seems the best way of preserving such an important building is to sell it to someone who has the means of securing its future.

The village hall committee is eager to devote their energies to providing a range of events rather than dealing with a building in slow and continuous decline. The proposed new hall will provide a fantastic amenity to enable us to do this.

I hope that everyone will understand the reasoning behind our proposal and give it their support.

John Roberts

Chairman

January 2021


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