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Report 10th February 2013

The Future of the Tytherton Village Hall

Introduction

The Tytherton Village Hall has been an excellent focus for the community in and around the Tythertons since 1924.  We are extremely grateful to those who built it, especially to James Bailey who leased the land for it in the centre of East Tytherton, and to the Baker family who funded the initial construction.

Unfortunately, the lease is due to expire in January 2016.  We have investigated several options for the future of the hall.  If we are to retain a hall, we believe the only viable option is to build a new hall on a different site.  However, such a step would require substantial contributions of both time and money from many people; even with grants, the community would need to raise at least £50–100k.  It would also take time.  We would therefore also seek to obtain a new, short-term (e.g. 5-year) lease to continue the existing hall temporarily in the meantime.

Widespread support for a new hall will be essential.  The proposals will be discussed at the Tytherton Village Hall AGM on 11th April at 7.30pm in the village hall.  Everyone in the area is welcome and encouraged to attend.

Background

The Tytherton Village Hall was originally built in the centre of East Tytherton on land leased for the purpose from Mr James Bailey.  It was a 99-year lease from 24th June 1924, granted at no cost and with a nominal rent.  The construction of the hall was funded by the Baker family.  The hall was to be used for the benefit of the community and residents in and around the villages of East and West Tytherton.  Several other conditions were attached to the lease, most notably the prohibition of drinking.  Responsibility for the lease was held by seven named trustees.

At some later time, a Working Men’s Club was constituted to operate the village hall.  We have been unable to establish when this was done or for what reason.  However, such a club was not stipulated in the lease, and responsibility for the lease and for the hall itself remained with the surviving trustees.

Originally, only the main room of the hall was built.  It was extended about 30–35 years ago with the addition of the rooms at the back, including the bar, toilets and kitchen.  More recently still, a house, ‘Dukesfield’, was built behind the hall.

By 1996, all the original trustees had died, and the ‘custom and practice’ of the hall contravened the conditions of the original lease in several ways, especially the presence of the bar.  Consequently, it was a superseded by a new lease that was drawn up between William and Walter Bailey and four new trustees.  It was a 20-year lease from 30th January 1996, effectively shortening the term of the original lease to ~92 years.  It is due to expire on 30th January 2016.

Assessment of the current hall

The village hall is used not much more than 100 times a year.  Those uses are for organised community events, for regular groups—such as the skittles team, the WI and Young Farmers—and for private functions.  However, we believe that its value is much greater than its utilisation.  The community events—ostensibly fund-raising events for the hall itself—bring together diverse people from the villages and surrounding area together in a way that would be very unlikely to occur otherwise; they are an excellent way for new people in the area to get to know others, and to sustain a strong sense of community.  It is also likely that some of the regular groups can only exist here because of the hall;  they again bring people together from an area that is focused on the Tythertons.

We feel highly indebted to those who had the vision and commitment to build the hall originally, not just for their use but for the many of us who have subsequently lived in the area.  We are particularly grateful to James Bailey and the Baker family for their substantial contributions initially, and indeed to both families for their subsequent strong support.

Whilst the hall has served the community very well, it does have several disadvantages now:

1.    It is not in good condition.  It is likely that extensive building work will be needed within a generation.

2.    It is small and especially narrow.

3.    It is not insulated:  it is expensive to heat, often just cold.  This problem would likely be fixed if the hall were rebuilt, although possibly only at the expense of making the hall even narrower.

4.    There is no outside space; barbecues have to be held in the car park.  There is only the village green on the other side of the road, which is safe to use only by shutting the road.

5.    There is very limited parking.  For large events, cars sometimes even park on the village green.

6.    It does not meet disability requirements, especially the corridor and toilets at the back.

In addition, while it has a certain local character, it is not the most attractive building.  It is not an appealing location for regular events or activities.

Options

We considered several options for the hall:

1.      Stop having any hall after the current lease expires in 2016.

2.      Continue with the current hall with a new lease:

a.       For a short term, e.g. another 20 years

b.      For a long period, e.g. 99 years

3.      Build a new hall on a different site, or possibly convert a building such as a barn.

4.      Share another building, such as the school.

We discuss various considerations relating to these options below, and then give our verdict on each.

Considerations

Potential uses

As well as its current uses, an improved hall could be used for regular activities, such as a children’s playgroup, exercise classes, etc.  Secure storage would be required for each group.

In addition, a new, potentially larger hall would be an appealing venue for more private events, including ones held by people from outside the immediate area.  Such events would not benefit the community directly, but they would provide additional revenue.

Associated developments

If a new hall is built, it would be possible to incorporate the hall into a wider development, for example including:

-          Low-cost or sheltered housing

-          A community shop

Either could provide direct community benefit, as well as potential revenue for the hall.  However, it could be a considerable increase in the work required, unless a suitable partner (e.g. housing association or developer) could be involved.

Much more simply, if a new site is found then it may also be possible to get enough land to include a playing field.  Village children currently use the playing field behind the Guiding Centre but there is no guarantee that this arrangement would be able to continue.  There would anyway be an advantage in having the field adjacent to the facilities available in the village hall.

Ideal Features

If a new hall were built, a preliminary list of ideal features would include:

-          Skittle alley;

-          Licensed bar;

-          Kitchen;

-          100–150 chairs and tables to suit;

-          Large amounts of storage for tables and chairs and for any dedicated users;

-          Toilets, possibly with changing facilities;

-          Car park;

-          Marquee site;

-          Archive for storing minutes, accounts, etc.

Potentially also:

-          Snug, e.g. for meetings;

-          Children’s play area.

About one acre would provide ample space for the hall and a suitable car park;  a second acre would also allow for a playing field.

Planning

Initial discussions with our councillor, Christine Crisp, suggest that planning permission for a new hall should not be a problem, providing it is within the boundary of one of the villages and that it is widely supported.  Removal of the old hall may be a condition of such permission.

However, we also note that Christian Malford was recently refused permission for a new hall.  We do not know the details of the proposed new site, or if there were any objections, but there were access issues.  Seagry on the other hand did get permission for a new hall, despite a local objection.

Current site

The land currently leased for the village hall is held in trust but it is going to revert to Dukesfield, which will be owned by Sarah Royal and Jill Boggis.  It will not be possible to negotiate a new long-term lease for the site.

New site

A new site is likely to come from current agricultural land, although it could already contain a building, such as a barn.  For planning purposes it would be best to be within a village.  Good access would also be needed from a road.  Even looking for the ideal amount of ~2 acres, there are some possible locations.

In the best case, the owner of a suitable site would be willing to donate the land.  There would be significant tax advantages of doing so.  However, much more likely it would be necessary to buy the land.  We would hope to be able to do so at agricultural rates, since there would be little opportunity to build anything on it other than a village hall.

It would also be best if the land were bought (or donated) outright, thereby avoiding any future issues such as we face now.  However, a long-lease of at least 125 years would still provide a long-term solution.

Other buildings

Option 4 would require a suitable building being available to share.  Possible buildings might be:

1.      The Guiding Centre.  It does not have a sufficiently large room.

2.      One of the churches.  It is hard to imagine.  Skittles between the pews?

If another building such as a barn were converted, it would effectively count as a new site as above.

Costs

Seagry has recently built a magnificent new Village Hall at considerable cost.  It was pre-constructed and erected in a matter of days to a very high standard.  With our more modest requirements, it would be possible for us to build (or rebuild) a hall for very much less, probably about £100 per sq.ft.—in the region of £200,000 in total.

Sources of Funding

Funding for a new hall, or to rebuilding the current hall, would be a major consideration.  Some or all of the following would be required:

-          Grants for specific features.  For example, a village hall in the area recently received £30–40k for a ground-source heat-pump.

-          General grants from organisations such as Community First.  At best we could expect to get ‘matched funding’ equal to what is raised locally.

-          A charge on the local Council tax. Another new hall in North Wiltshire got £100k loaned at no/negligible interest from the Council that is repaid by a £50 charge on the average council tax bill for the next 20 years.  However, it seems unlikely that the entire Bremhill parish would accept such a charge, and probably it would not be possible for only part of the parish.

-          Individual donations.  The hall should be set up as a charity.  The hall would then also receive the basic rate tax as gift-aid from any donations made by tax-payers.

-          Donations of time and services.  These would be one of our biggest contributors.  If we have matched funding, anyone giving their time could charge for that time and then make an equal financial donation.

Verdict and Recommendations

Our views on the different options:

1.      Stopping the hall would be very much to the detriment of the community.  It would squander the legacy bequeathed us by earlier generations, albeit that other options would require further effort and investment of us.  It would be harder to start a new hall in the future, even than building a new one new.

2.      A new lease superficially might have seemed the easiest option;  it continues what we have without much effort.  However, it is now clear that such an extension could be negotiated.  It would anyway only delay more significant work:

a.       A short (e.g. 20-year) lease would require similar negotiations at the end of that time.  Hopefully most of us will still be here to face the same issues all over again.  No real investment could be made in the hall in that time, given the uncertainty over its long-term future.

b.      A longer lease (at least 99 years) would allow investment in the current hall.  However, substantial investment would be required, either now or in the future when the structure has deteriorated further.  Any investment would lock in the limitations of the current site, and potentially make it even smaller.

The real potential for this option is with a very short-term lease (e.g. 5 years) to allow time for a more permanent solution.

3.      Building a new hall would require a significant investment of both time and money from many people, even using other sources of funding.  Nonetheless, we believe it to be feasible, providing a suitable site can be identified and bought.  It would overcome the limitations of the current site and give a hall that would meet the needs of the community for the next few generations.

4.      There appears to be no suitable building that could be shared.  Furthermore, it is unlikely that any organisation or individual would enter into a long-term agreement to share their building; at best such an approach would be temporary whilst a permanent solution is found.

Overall, our clear recommendation is for option 3: to build a new hall on a new site.  It is the only practical option that provides a long-term solution—that none of us will be required to revisit in the future—and that would give what we want in a hall without the current limitations.  However, it would require significant commitment and it would be important that there is widespread support for such an option before embarking on it.

It is conceivable that a new hall might be built by January 2016.  However, it would be challenging, and rushing the process would be likely to add cost and reduce the quality of the resulting hall.  Consequently, we also recommend that a temporary new lease for the existing hall be put in place.  It would define a clear date by which a new hall would need to be completed, giving certainty to all parties.

Next Steps

The following would be required to begin:

1.      Widespread acceptance of these proposals.  They will be discussed at the Tytherton Village Hall AGM on 11th April at 7.30pm in the village hall.  Everyone in the area is welcome and encouraged to attend.

2.      The identification of a suitable site.  Without a site, it is very difficult to make further plans and to start applying for grants.

3.      Decide if any other development is wanted alongside the hall, and if appropriate to find a suitable partner organisation.

 

Nic Pillow and the
Village Hall Committee

10th February 2013

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