Debate over Bradfield Village Hall plans
Plans for a new village hall in Bradfield Southend have been unveiled to the public.
At a meeting last Thursday, friends and residents of the village debated the plans, as the trustees outlined the scheme.
While the trustees themselves presented on the night, former Newbury councillor and mayor and local charity leader Garry Poulson had been invited to chair the meeting at the hall’s current premises in Southend Road.
The hall first opened almost 70 years ago and supporters of its demolition argue that it is an outdated and inadequate venue.
The proposed new facility will feature two halls, a committee room, a games area, playground, garden and enhanced car park.
Planning permission was approved for the design in 2019, although hall improvements have been on the local agenda for much longer, with the Parish Plan of 2008 finding “support for the Village Hall and the requirement to upgrade it, on the existing site, to a new multi-use community centre”.
More than £700,000 has so far been raised - including a match-funded £100,000 grant from Greenham Trust.
Newbury resident Mr Poulson told the Newbury Weekly News he was asked to chair the public meeting on the village hall project, "as it was felt important for the village hall committee to bring the community up to speed with the successes to date.
“As a charity support expert, I recognise the hard work that the village hall committee have achieved to bring this project through planning, design and £706,000 of funding, including pledges from important funders.
“The financial statements that we heard were reassuring, and I have no doubt that the project will proceed. The scheme has come too far for it to be permitted to fail.
“There should be no doubt that the new hall will transform the current site and create a modern, fit-for-purpose centre for Bradfield Southend, which is well overdue.”
There was a large turnout for the meeting and among those voicing reservations over the plans were members of Bradfield Parish Council.
Critics of the scheme voiced concerns over the financing of the project, noting a gap between the new hall’s nominal cost - around £2.2m - and the total funds raised so far.
Resident Mike Mee said: “I think there’s a lot of people in this community who seriously support the idea of improved facilities. What we don’t want to do is see a project which hits the buffers, with a lot of money and time and effort committed, and isn’t completed.
“We would far rather see a realistic, properly-scaled project, completed and delivered to the community, than an over-ambitious project which doesn’t get completed.”
In response, the trustees emphasised that building work would not start until the full sum had been raised, and that, with suitable planning, the actual cost may fall short of projected expenses.
They do not believe it would be viable to switch to an alternative design at this stage, as the larger grants, including Greenham Trust’s, have been allocated specifically for the scheme set out in the most recent planning application.
Bradfield Parish Council agrees there is a need for improved hall facilities in the parish but told the Newbury Weekly News: “Following significant concern from parishioners about the approved plans for the new hall, and concern about the figures the business plan is based on, the parish council has currently withdrawn support for the project.”
The village committee welcomes donations from the public towards the scheme, and these can be made at bit.ly/3ADaeMI