The old hall disappeared quite quickly and work has begun on piling and foundations. A drain has to be moved at the front of the site and a tank has to be sunk in the car park as part of water retention to reduce stress on the brook.
During the preparation for the project, there has been considerable expenditure on ecology and this includes trees in the car park. Those in the centre are subject to preservation orders, despite the fact that only one of them is in anywhere near a fair condition. In many ways, the car park would work a lot better without them. We could plant better specimens elsewhere on the site and take pressure off Askew Grove but these issues are never straight forward or cheap to resolve.
With the project started, in theory the village hall committee should have had little to do but in fact there is a lot of practical and administrative work to consider before reopening.
Hopefully, the risk of expensive surprises is diminishing as the groundwork proceeds. It will be a while before we know exactly what funds will be available for essential items and the things we want to replace on our long-term wish list. To reduce the cost of the contract, a number of items were identified which we could fit ourselves. For example, we salvaged simple things such as coat hooks and their batons and discovered that we could save a lot by putting up simple shelving ourselves. It does not sound a lot but in fact the monetary value was considerable, so a bit of DIY before we open will be well worth it.
In addition to the practical aspects of moving back, we also have to look at how the new spaces will be used and booked out. We are already getting requests for major bookings. We have already taken advice from environmental health on things to consider in running a community cafe and we have visited other halls where they are running successfully. Similarly, we are taking advice on how youth activities could be restarted in the hall. There has been none since around 2003. As with any organisation these days, a wealth of policies has to be in place to show that we are running the place safely. We will take this opportunity to update everything.
Requests for help: we have had one generous donation of a TV monitor which will go in the meeting room to be used for presentations. If anyone else is trading up in the next six months, we also would like one for the cafe area where it could be used for meetings, youth activity and computer guidance. Another area where you may be able to help is with recovering some very good but tired looking metal framed chairs. We have 10, some with arms, which have been particularly useful for some less able users of the hall in the past. Please get in contact if you can help with any of these issues.