New Community Hall
It is over four years since I was fortunate enough to be seconded onto the Parish Council steering committee that was developing the concept of the Hellingly Community Centre. I have seen the concept develop from being an architect’s drawings based on the PC’s original specifications, which were really gorgeous, and for which Planning Permission was obtained, but which ultimately had to be dropped because a) our Panning Permission time lapsed due to the time it took the developers to transfer the land to the PC and 2) the reality of increasing costs and the uncertainty of available finances ultimately needed the Council to, quite literally, go back to the drawing board.
Undaunted, the steering committee took the original needs analysis and the concepts of the design for the Centre and applied some basic common sense and practical thinking and came up with a new set of requirements. At this point, the committee acknowledged that it needed professional help and after a careful selection process and with the approval of the PC, appointed a Project Manager to correlate the thinking and bring some hard practicalities into the concepts. An architect and quantity surveyor were duly brought into the team to provide the plans and costings for the committee.
Not surprisingly, despite the first drawings being very close to meeting the specifications laid out by the PC, the steering committee had lots of ideas about the internal layout, parking and grounds layout and the needs of the kitchen, disabled facilities etc! To enable the committee to make decisions quickly, the PC authorised the steering committee to become a fully fledged sub-committee of the PC with the ability to ‘get on with the project’ without having to obtain permission from the PC as a whole at every turn. After several joint meetings with the Project Management team, the plans, budgets, etc were present to Council for their approval. These plans were then submitted to Wealden Planning Committee for approval.
While waiting for Planning Permission, tender invitations were sent out to local builders with a proven record of the quality of their work and ultimately the work was offered to H and D Builders (who had previously done such a good job building the Pavilion in our Country Park). Planning Permission was duly received and the cash flow and budgets approved, and, with the backing of the full PC, the contract duly awarded.
H and D set to work with a flourish and there is absolutely no reason to doubt that they will meet their 14 month build schedule.
The new Hellingly Community Centre will be run in conjunction with the existing Village Hall by a single Committee whose job it will be to ensure that the Centre is fully utilised. The Centre will have a fully equipped kitchen to enable major functions to be held in the Hall or either (or both!) of the large meeting rooms. The meeting rooms will also have a small area for making hot beverages without the need to use the kitchen. Both the Hall and the two meeting rooms have storage facilities so regular users can keep their equipment at the Centre (within reason!). Our Parish Clerks will also, for the first time, have a permanent office on Council premises within the Centre.
Clubs, fitness class leaders, etc, etc, are invited to submit their names to the Parish Clerk now if you are seriously interested in regularly using the new Centre. Anyone who has tried to book time in the Village Hall on an ad hoc basis will know how difficult it is getting the date you want. We sincerely hope that our new Community Centre will have the same problem, as that will show that the effort and expense of providing what we are sure will be a terrific asset to the Community has all been worthwhile!
Hellingly Parish Councillor