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Referendum and redevelopment story

The need to rebuild

Development History

Read the report for Repton Parish Council together with lt our Referendum Leaflet,

The short story

The original village hall stood in High Street opposite St Wystan's School. In 1960 it was destroyed by fire, and the present hall was completed in 1973. As the only public hall which can accommodate large gatherings, it is indispensable for well attended larger village events. It also serves as the village polling station for elections and as a meeting room for village societies. Internally it feels welcoming, and it is for the most part quite serviceable if dated. Over the years it has been well maintained, but the unseen fabric is deteriorating, maintenance costs are increasing and fittings need replacing.
The hall was built using wooden frames and wood and glazing infill panels. It is well beyond its predicted 25 year design life, and now unrepairable. One of the columns suffers from significant rot. When any structural element fails, the building will lose its structural integrity and have to be closed.

As an equally serious problem the accommodation does not meet current standards and requirements. There are no disabled facilities, kitchen and WC provision is no longer adequate and the single large room is unsuitable for smaller gatherings. Heating, insulation and lighting fail to meet current requirements for economical 'green' standards; the hall has very large single-glazed windows and very little thermal insulation. It wastes energy and is very expensive to heat.
As well as improving energy efficiency, we will improve disability access, renew the kitchen and toilets, lengthen the main hall (of particular importance for indoor sport), add two smaller meeting rooms, and create facilities for a community drop-in and cafe.
Action is now essential
Not least for tax reasons, the most economical way forward is to demolish the existing building and completely rebuild. The estimated cost (at 2017 costs) is between £597,500 and £850,000 depending on the floor area and the number of phases in construction. The management committee estimates that up to £318,000 can be raised from grants, 106 monies, local fund raising events and other sources.

Registered Charity No. 1131731


FOR THOSE WHO WANT THE FULL STORY TO JUNE 2018,

Repton Village Hall Redevelopment history 1999-2018
Askew Grove, Repton, DE65 6GR.
dated : 21st April 2018
Repton village Hall company number 701 6283 (CIO formed 11/09/2009)
Repton village Hall Charity number 113 1731,
Land Registry DY450249
Ordnance survey reference 430554. 31/326950. 19

The original village hall on High Street was destroyed by fire in 1963. Drawings were
prepared in 1964 in order to develop a new hall on the site but in fact a land swap
arrangement was agreed between Repton School and the hall for the site in Askew
Grove.
The village hall committee (RVHMC) comprises representatives from a wide variety
of hall users. The RVHMC have been involved in all the decisions made with regard
to the hall. Plans and layouts have always been brought to committee before
proceeding with actions.
New plans were drawn up in 1969 to use a rapid construction system designed for
schools and community centres. These buildings were expected to last
approximately 25 years. The wooden frame is thin and relies on the infill panels for
rigidity. The roof is wooden. In 1978 the local WI paid for a brick extension to provide
a stage, changing room and a bar area but unfortunately during those works one of
the wooden supports was removed which is evidenced today by sagging over the
stage.

Over the years the building was well maintained but the side panels were beginning
to show signs of wear. In September 1999 SDDC were asked for advice regarding
either extending the life of the building or replacing it. The advice given was that the
building could be kept going for probably another 10 years at a cost of £73,000 +
VAT and fees whereas a new hall would cost £266,000 plus fees if funding could be
found. In 2005 the committee tried in vain to get funding to make the toilet facilities
suitable for the disabled and revisited the refurbishment question. Users were
canvassed for opinions on facilities, the site was surveyed and drawn up and a
structural report was commissioned, the idea being that the front part of the building
could be rebuilt and the main hall refurbished if possible. When costed, this was
deemed to be too risky if the main hall’s life could only be prolonged by 10 years.
At that point it was concluded that replacing the hall completely was the better option
as it was clear that the building was heading towards the end of its design life and
approaching a time when it would be beyond repair. The committee began to
consider solutions for repair or replacement of the hall. A decision was taken that
excessive expenditure that did not involve incorporation of disabled facilities was
poor value. In fact any refurbishment scheme would have triggered a requirement for
the installation of disabled facilities. From 2006, structural engineer inspections were
commissioned and reports obtained on an annual basis. It also became clear that
the lack of disabled facilities (fortunately no-one complained) and meeting rooms (to
allow concurrent use) were becoming issues with the hall users.

An initial look at the funding possibilities led to the conclusion that a staged approach
might have to be taken. Not being in a disadvantaged area effectively put a cap on
the sums that could be obtained from grant bodies. Unfortunately this period also
coincided with the switching of lottery funding towards the future 2012 Olympics.
In 2011, a quotation was supplied by a company called Retrofit UK for the
replacement of all the panels on the western side of the building. High-quality
products from Hanson Ltd were proposed with a cost of around £67k. This option
was not pursued with any great fervour as the architect and structural engineer felt
that the basic frame of the building would not reliably continue to provide good
enough service to justify the cost. At the same time the existing foundations were
inspected and in general their depth would not comply with current design guidance
(photographs on file). In addition the foundations were unlikely to be wide enough to
accommodate the replacement panels as the existing panels (the new panels would
be thicker) sat close to the outside edge of the foundations and not centrally as might
have been assumed. Widening and deepening the foundations would have
increased the cost considerably.

Consideration was then given to rebuilding a new front and refurbishing the hall walls
and roof as separate stages. Costings were drawn up by Barlow Associates but the
final bill was estimated to be circa £310,000 including VAT as it was not a new build
project and therefore liable for VAT. In 2012 a report was prepared for the parish
council and five options were outlined:

1. Do nothing – eventually the Hall would become unusable. This was not really
an option due to the extensive use of the hall and its importance to the village

2. Relocate the facilities currently provided to alternative venues and close the
hall. This was not a realistic option as there were not any affordable local halls
for the larger events and the smaller venues within the village could not have
met the increased demand.

3. Rebuild on the present site. The cost of rebuilding at a future date, re-laying
the car park and fitting out was estimated at approximately £600,000
£700,000 and would mean that the hall would have to be closed for
approximately 6 months. The major problem was the considerable fundraising
would be required and a number of funding sources, including the big lottery
fund, had indicated they would not be able to help with the project. This
scheme had one major advantage in that it would enable a hall to be designed
that reflected the needs of the hall users and other village bodies.

4. Rebuild on an alternative site. The cost and aims would have been similar to
above. The present location of the hall was ideal for the village and many of
the users. In addition no sensible alternative sites in the village had been
identified.

5. Refurbish the main hall and rebuild the front of the building. This was thought
to be impracticable due to the condition of one of the main wooden columns
for certain and possibly others (close inspection had never been possible and
probably would not have been until refurbishment was underway). The advice
from our specialists supported this view.

The RVHMC resolved to explore option three. i.e., to rebuild the hall. By this time the
parish council and the Repton School sale of work had already begun making
donations to hall re-building funds and other societies within the village were also
being very supportive. With no other likely funding streams (Repton was considered
a “wealthy” village and SDDC and DCC were not in a position to offer any serious
contribution either.

Discussions re-started with the architect and consultation was begun with users to
see what needed to be included within an effective design. A new business plan was
drawn up. This culminated in fresh drawings being prepared in 2013. Public
consultation events were organised in the hall on the 6th and 13th of July 2013 and
there was a whole series of articles in the local press. An exhibition stand was
displayed at the biennial village party on the Mitre field 2013 -17. Similarly, a
permanent display has been on display in the hall since 2013. Early in 2014 there
was an article about the village hall either from the RVHMC or the parish council
virtually every month in the parish magazine. Users of the hall were asked to confirm
in writing their continued wish to use and support the hall, all the users did so. The
architect was asked to consider lower cost options in design terms.

In April 2014 drawings were produced and a grant was received to contribute
towards the professional fees cost. An application for planning permission was made
and permission was granted in November 2014. The hall did benefit from a small
legacy but was only allowed to spend the interest on this. In 2016 there was a
significant legacy of £40,000 left by the estate of a resident of Repton.
At this stage a separate appeals committee was launched which in the intervening
years has staged numerous events of various kinds within the village and has raised
£74,000 at the time of writing. The plan is for this committee to finish its work in June
2018, culminating with a large final event. The fund raising volunteers are feeling
exhausted after many years of hard and sometimes un-appreciated effort.
In August 2016 a resident in the village approached the then RVHMC chair with a
suggestion that a new hall could be financed by using part of the site’s car park to
construct houses. This was discussed at the September 2016 committee meeting
but was not pursued as the charity could not use its assets in a way that might be
speculative. A further approach to the new RVHMC chair was made in the summer
of 2017 proposing a cladding solution for a fraction of the cost of the proposed single
rebuild option for which planning permission had been obtained. This was discussed
at the subsequent committee and was not favoured, as it did not meet the RVHMC
requirements drawn up in terms of design and due consideration to likely life of the
structure. Professional advisors also doubted whether the structure would cope with
any additional roof load.

The questionnaire for the Repton Neighbourhood Development plan instigated by
Repton Parish Council in 2016 included questions asking whether a new hall was
wanted and whether respondents were prepared to pay for it. This data is available
on line and confirmed overwhelming support in the responses to both questions.
In parallel to the items above advice was sought from others in the region who had
successfully managed to construct new halls. It was clear that either a major legacy
or a loan was to be necessary to bring the project to a conclusion.

A parish councillor brought up the possibility of raising the local precept in time for
the new rate to be set for the 2017 tax year but the parish council was not willing to
support this proposal. However, the parish council did continue to donate every year
from 2011 into the rebuilding fund. This money was ring fenced and could only be
used for that purpose or would have to be returned to the parish council.

RVHMC prepared a draft report to the parish council supporting an application to
raise a public works loan funded by a raised precept from April 2018. In October
2016 a draft was given to the then current parish council chair for advice on format
and content. This then triggered months of debate about the design and submissions
from a councillor in his capacity as a resident, offering alternative designs without
ever having been part of the development process. The final report was submitted in
May 2017 but the debate on design continued.

The parish council indicated that asking the Parish to pay for a significant increase in
precept would require a referendum. Derbyshire Association of Local Councils
(DALC) would be able to give advice on the process involved and would be
consulted. In the meantime, the planning permission expired and had to be reapplied
for at a cost of nearly £5000 by the time all the required supporting reports were
obtained.

A joint committee formed from parish councillors and RVHMC members met to
organise the referendum. The parish council was responsible for the collection of
voting boxes and the counting of votes but the village hall and volunteers acted as
foot soldiers in terms of distributing the voting slips to every house in the parish.
There had been unfortunate intimations that there might be some cheating so it was
made crystal clear that DALC had checked the wording of the voting slip and the
information sheet produced by the parish council. The voting slips were expensively
printed, uniquely numbered and ciphered such that making an effective copy would
be impossible. At a joint subgroup committee set up to oversee this process, it was
agreed that the village hall would produce its own information sheet as it could not
be seen to be persuading voters either way. The village hall leaflet was worded as a
question and answer document based on conversations with residents and feedback
on the content and clarity was positive.

Having adhered to the statutory consultation period of one month, the votes were
finally counted on 3 December after residents had one month in which to post them
at one of four locations in the parish. The turnout was 38% with 77.5% favouring the
idea of a new hall and the idea of putting up the precept to contribute to it by £20.94
for a typical band D house.

During the referendum there were articles in the local press and much traffic on
social media. A local resident published articles indicating that the whole village was
being misled into replacing a salvageable structure, spending £700,000 where
£200,000 would do.

Following the referendum, there was still pressure to adopt an alternative design
which had not been through the same rigorous processes as the one offered by
RVHMC. The parish council was also concerned to pursue a best value agenda as
befits a public body. The view of the village hall committee was that a temporary
cladding refurbishment was not going to be something that would represent good
value based on the independent professional advice received and the consensus
was that RVHMC should not support this option.

The parish council felt under an obligation to undertake due diligence on the
proposal and so requested a company called Timberwise to visit the hall as it was
one of the few companies in the country that had ever repaired this sort of structure.
This report which was commissioned by Repton Parish council independently but
basically said no opinion was possible without a much deeper survey. The parish
council also received a report from YES engineering. After a debate in full council,
these proposals were rejected by the parish council as it was felt that the RVHMC’s
proposal for rebuilding the hall represented ‘best value for money’ in accordance with
government directives on spending public money.

YES had visited the hall and supplied a report to the parish council. No one on
RVHMC was made aware of it or agreed access arrangements. The YES report
suggested that a much more detailed survey was necessary and that this would cost
somewhere approaching £15,000 and possibly a lot more. Only then would we know
whether a modern re-cladding option would be feasible because of the uncertainty
over the structural elements. It was also suggested that RVHMC should be the
principal contractor. RVHMC took professional advice and was advised not to go
down this route.

At this time, the chair and secretary of the village hall also undertook a round of visits
to half a dozen village halls which had been rebuilt or refurbished within recent times.
Via the government website, contact was made with parish councils and village halls
which had used significant public works loans for village hall building in the last few
years. These visits and conversations were very informative and armed with the
results of this a further meeting was held with the architect to challenge the design.
Only two minor amendments were made which was testament to the suitability of the
design which reflected the users and village needs discussed and evolved over
many years.

One piece of advice given by several of the representatives from the halls we met
was that we should avoid building in the winter. In the event of the parish council
initiating the process of a loan application in April there would be time to go through
the tendering and appointment process in time to start demolition and construction
works by October 1st 2018 at the latest. It is clear that every month of delay is
effectively reducing the purchasing power of funds available. It is evident that there
are currently sufficient funds available, made up of village hall reserves, section 106
money and a public works loan. The risks in the project have been fully assessed to
enable a public works loan board application to be made by the clerk of the parish
council, which the council voted to support at its April 2018 meeting. The submission
will be made shortly (it may already have been) and early indications are that the
application is sound. Formal agreement from the government is awaited.

It should be noted that the process of re-building the village hall has been on-going
for many years. It is only through the dedication and hard work of members of
RVHMC (who are all volunteers) particularly the ex-chairman, that the hall has been
able to exceed its design life by over 24 years and without that dedication there is no
doubt that Repton would have no village hall. As previously stated RVHMC is open
to anyone but as in many walks of life it is left to a minority to achieve something that
a majority say they want but are not prepared to work for.

We now move onto a new phase where RVHMC have the opportunity to provide a
hall that the village of Repton can be proud of. It was never the intention of RVHMC
to waste money or ignore alternatives, in fact it is clear that RVHMC explored
alternatives at the very start of the re-building / re-furbishment process and has
involved the villagers of Repton and the Parish in an open and approachable way
including consultation meetings and articles.

It is probable that had the RVHMC not taken on board the unenviable task of
maintaining the hall (when it was clearly becoming dilapidated) and starting a
process of re-building that we would now be staring at a derelict patch of land for
which planning permission for housing would not be far behind.
The volunteers of RVHMC were not prepared for this to happen and for that they
should be congratulated and not as is currently apparent castigated in some quarters
for having the courage of their convictions.

The referendum and NDP clearly show that the village hall is important to a large
number of people. It is also very important to the members of RVHMC otherwise
they would all have given up years ago and probably wish they could now.
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