Whimple Victory Hall
Strategic Plan 2013
Whimple Victory Hall is a registered charity whose constitution requires the trustees to manage the affairs of the hall for the benefit of the local community. In doing so the trustees aim to provide, maintain and improve the facilities on the hall site in a cost effective way and promote community activities in the hall and elsewhere.
Whimple is a village of about 1650 inhabitants situated halfway between Exeter and Honiton in Devon. Whimple Victory Hall is a registered charity at the centre of this rural community, and is run by a group of volunteer trustees the majority of whom are drawn from the organisations that regularly use the hall.
The hall was established in 1920 to commemorate victory in the First World War and is based on an old First World War building. It comprises an entrance hallway with ladies and gents toilets and a disabled toilet, a main hall with stage, a second room which has two adjacent toilets, a committee room and a kitchen.
The main hall has capacity for 200 people and is often full for village events. During the week it is used by the adjacent primary school for assemblies, P.E., drama and lunches. On evenings and at weekends it is used for leisure and recreational activities such as Zumba, short-mat bowls, music, dances and receptions. The stage is used by the school, Young Farmers and the village drama group and there is a monthly Film Club.
The second room is known as the billiard room. It's main use is shared between the Under 5's (preschool) and the over 60's. There is also occasional use for band practice, rehearsals and for meetings. The use of this room is significantly restricted by the presence of a full size billiard table.
The committee room is situated between the main hall and the kitchen. It is used for parish council and other meetings. The door to the main hall is not soundproof and this significantly limits the use of the committee room when the school, or any other relatively noisy hirer, is using the main hall.
The kitchen has ample storage space and is well equipped. The structure of the building is such that there is a tendency for condensation to form on the kitchen ceiling resulting in unsightly marks.
In 2008 the entranceway and toilets were refurbished. The layout was also changed to improve access to the committee room.
The hall car park was resurfaced in 2008. It now receives heavy use particularly when parents deliver and collect children from school and pre-school. The car park is also used by the adjacent doctors’ surgery. The surgery has recently been extended, and is open more frequently, so is now much busier than before. This has worsened the parking problem.
The garden is used and partly maintained by the pre-school group. Other grounds around the building are maintained by the hall.
The building is quite old and in a poor state of repair. There are significant cracks in the walls. Many of these are due to expansion and contraction of the outside walls which were built without suitable stress relief. We are assured that these cracks are not structurally significant. There are two significant leaks from the roof. One is over the main hall and the other where the flat roof over the billiard room toilets and preschool store meets the main building.
The main roof and the flat roof over the kitchen are poorly insulated so that heating costs are high and mould patches appear on the ceiling.
There is insufficient storage space for tables, chairs and other equipment used by hirers. At present there are only three storage areas available to the hall. The boiler house shed and a metal container is to the north of the main hall and at the far end of the main building there is a store room extension outside the billiard room door. The school also has a metal container outside the main hall facing the school. We have planning permission for one more container. The planning permission for all three metal containers expires in 2023. The existing storage is still inadequate as chairs and tables need to be kept in both the main hall and committee room which restricts their use.
The most significant operating cost is that of heating. This is currently done by an old and obsolete boiler housed in the boiler shed, a prefabricated building with a corrugated asbestos roof. The boiler has been maintained but we are advised that it should be replaced within the next year. The hall is poorly insulated and the heating cost is disproportionately high. The likelihood is that fuel costs will continue to rise.
Issues affecting the future use and development of the hall
Demand from users
At present the demand for the hall’s facilities is such that, within the constraints mentioned above, the main hall and billiard room are in constant use throughout the day and evening most weekdays. At weekends the main hall has about 50% utilisation mainly in the evenings.
The high daytime utilisation by the school led to complaints from prospective hirers that there were no rooms available during weekdays. As a reaction to that concern we arranged to make the main hall available for at least one half day a week for a while. In the event no other bookings materialised for the main hall. However, we believe that the noise constraint on the committee room, and the fact that it is used partly for storage, has prevented its use as a meeting room for which there is some demand.
The adjacent Primary School achieved ‘outstanding’ OFSTED status in 2010 since when the number of pupils has increased and is expected to increase further. There is a close relationship between the Victory Hall and the school. We have an agreement with the education authority on a contract that sets out details of a six year arrangement, due to expire in April 2023, albeit with a notice period of a year on either side. The plans for Cranbrook include two new primary schools the first of which is now open. Although this poses no immediate threat to our village school we cannot afford to ignore the possibility that, at some time in the more distant future, it might close or no longer have need for the hall. At present 30% of our hire income comes from the school. Although it is likely that this will continue for the foreseeable future, our plans must allow for the possible loss of this income in due course.
There are a range of government initiatives directed at schools that will have a knock on effect on the Hall:
From September 2014 schools will be required to provide meals, assumed to be hot meals, to all key stage one children.
Another initiative is to provide some tablet computers which will require a wireless internet connection.
A further initiative is to provide additional funding for PE activities for all school children.
Under 5's and Over 60's Club
The Preschool is now extremely busy. There is no capacity for it to be relocated within the school despite the active encouragement of the Department for Children, Schools and Families for primary schools to include preschool provision on school premises. There appears to be no immediate likelihood that the preschool would wish to move away from the hall, but we cannot afford to ignore the possibility that this could happen at some stage.
The demand for preschool places is rising and extra sessions are required. Preschool children tend to move on to their associated primary school. It follows that Whimple school would benefit if preschool places are found within the village rather than elsewhere. We would like to be able to accommodate extra preschool sessions for all local children and thereby support the case for keeping a primary school in the village. However, the billiard room is shared by the Under 5's and the over 60's and the presence of the billiard table in that room restricts the number of children that can attend each session. With increasing demand there is an emerging case for extending that part of the building to enable the activities of the Under 5's and Over 60's to be separated.
St Mary’s Church
St Mary’s Church PCC have been exploring the scope for developing the church as a community facility by improving the heating, possibly making changes to the layout and making it available for use by other organisations in the village. So far this has had little impact on hall bookings.
Refurbish or rebuild?
It is estimated that to demolish the existing building and rebuild would cost in the region of £250,000 - £500,000 (based on similar projects elsewhere) with the cost of a new site and building likely to exceed £1,000,000. Although we would not discount the possibility of a new building if sufficient finance became available, it is difficult to justify that approach. Our plans are based on improving and extending the existing hall and addressing any maintenance issues as they arise.
The licensing laws that came into force in 2005, and other legally enforceable requirements, continue to place new and more onerous demands upon the trustees and users of the hall. Work is under way to keep the hall up to date with these requirements. A new booking form and updated terms and conditions of hire have been agreed by the trustees and are being implemented.
The Hallmark scheme is a quality standard for community buildings such as ours. We currently do not have Hallmark. This must now be a priority as it is becoming a requisite for grant aid. In order to achieve Hallmark we need to review and update our policy documents.
As trustees we operate within our governing document (constitution) which dates back to the 1920's when the hall was given to the village. It would be sensible for us to seek to update our constitution by adopting the Model Constitution for Village Halls recommended by ACRE.
Generating further income
With the high level of utilisation of the existing rooms there is only limited scope to increase hire income from extra hirings. The most common source of extra income for village halls is to have a licensed bar. We have discounted this possibility as impractical with the space currently available, and undesirable given there are already three other licensed premises in the village.
Cost of cleaning
The onus is placed on hirers to clean and tidy the room they have used at the end of each session. This has from time to time proved unsatisfactory as rooms have been left in a less than acceptable condition. There is a part time cleaner who unlocks and locks up, and carries out cleaning including cleaning the toilets each day. These arrangements are adequate and are under constant review.
The new town of Cranbrook is being built a few miles to the west of Whimple. So far a few hundred properties have been built but soon this will reach approaching 4000. The town has its own community building. The impact on our hall is not yet clear but it seems likely that a rapidly increasing local population will place new demands on the hall’s facilities as the development nears Whimple.
Local Government changes
Consultations on the future of local government seem to have stalled. There remains the possibility that at some future time there will be a reduction in the number of tiers of local government from three to two. This will presumably expand the role and activities of the parish council. The council may therefore need to establish an office where parishioners can make direct contact with their local council. Whimple Parish Council currently has no property of its own. It uses the Victory Hall for its meetings and the secretary works from home. Our development plans should take account of the possible need for a parish council office.
Use as a community building
Traditionally, village halls have been used predominantly as a centre for leisure activities. However, the rural community is finding local facilities such as shops, post offices, schools etc., under threat and the role of the village hall is being seen as a community building where a range of services can be delivered to serve the local community. We should therefore take account of future use of the Victory Hall as a community building for example by considering the need for office space, telephones and IT facilities.
Village Shop and Post Office
Our first strategic plan, prepared in 2008, was drawn up when both the local shop and the village Post Office were under threat of closure. Those pressures now appear to have abated and it is now less likely that the hall will be used as an alternative. However, the threat of closure may return at some time in the future.
The Long Term Proposal
Our long term plan for the hall involves the construction of additional rooms accessible from a new main entrance on the north side of the building which would also include an office and store. The existing lobby would then become another store room. This remains consistent with the demands we foresee for the building. As yet this has not been fully costed but for planning purposes we estimate that than £50,000 - £100,000 would be required.
Current Financial Position
At present we operate the hall by balancing the income we receive from users against the day to day running cost with a surplus that is accumulated to meet larger expenditure on capital expenditure and maintenance as the need arises. This is supplemented by occasional grants towards capital works and our own fundraising activities.
A typical annual account would be:
External hire charges £14,000 Running costs £14,000
School hire charges £ 6,000 Sinking Fund £ 5,000
Fundraising £2,000 Maintenance/capital reserve £ 3,000
Total income £22,000 £22,000
Currently our reserves are £50,000 with £10,000 of that held as an operating reserve. This leaves £40,000 available for capital works.
Taking account of these issues we have set a series of priorities in preparing our development plan. These have been categorized as high, medium and low and are as follows:
High priority - to replace the now obsolete central heating boiler
High priority - to provide permanent storage for hall equipment
High priority - to carry out remedial work on the main roof and improve the thermal insulation of the building
High priority - to mitigate the expansion cracks in the main walls
High priority - to draw up and cost a proposal for an additional room for use by the Under 5s or Over 60s Club
High priority - to achieve Hallmark certification in hall management
Medium priority - to carry out remedial work on the leak in the billiard room extension roof
Medium priority - to investigate issues with the flat roof over the kitchen and committee room
Medium priority - to increase the utilisation of existing rooms by making the committee room more suitable for hirers
Medium priority - to investigate the provision of a telephone service and IT facilities within the hall
Low priority - to draw up a proposal for a new entrance lobby, office and additional storage
Low priority - to review the adequacy of the kitchen for future needs.
The storage issue and the need to replace the boiler can be met by demolishing the existing boiler shed and building a new store room as an extension to the committee room alongside the main hall. A new boiler would be sited in this store room. This would be accessible from both outside and from the main hall. A building consultant has been asked to design, draw up and cost this proposal.
We have sought advice on ways to improve the thermal insulation of the main hall. Based on this advice it is proposed, subject to a satisfactory survey, to fill the void in the main hall ceiling with cavity wall insulation. Before this can be done the cause of the leak above the main hall ceiling must be found and remedied. No firm proposal is yet being made to improve the insulation of the roof over the kitchen and committee room.
The cracks in the main walls are unsightly and detrimental as they allow water to enter causing further superficial damage. The building consultant has been asked to draw up and cost a proposal to remedy the water ingress and disguise the cracks
Considerable work was done to bring our policies and procedures up to date in the light of changes in the legislation affecting village halls. That work needs to be reviewed and updated as a matter of urgency. We need to demonstrate to our users, the licensing authority, the Charity Commission, and any prospective funders or benefactors, that the hall remains well and prudently managed in the light of all these changes. In order to do so we propose achieving level one and two of the Hallmark Quality Assurance standard for Village Halls within a year.