Sunday, 18 September 2011

Warcop Village Hall and Reading Room Newsletter

The following newsletter has been distributed around the Parish to bring everyone up to date with the plans and progress with the Village Hall and Reading Room.


In 2009/10 the Warcop Village Hall Trustees found themselves in a hall where they were unable to use the first floor due to the lack of a disabled access and safe escape, also that in addition to damp, condensation damage, rotten window frames and doors, there were serious Health and Safety issues, inadequate toilets, kitchen and disabled facilities, plus rot in the ground floor due to the high water table and the roof needed attention.

After a detailed look into the cost of refurbishing the existing hall they rapidly reached the conclusion that it would cost between £300,000.00 and £400,000.00 which was the cost at that time of the new Village Hall being built at Newbiggin near Penrith. Further more the Trustees had been looking into removing the Temperance restriction on the hall with regards to the sale of alcohol and later learnt from the Licensing Authority that due to the location of the current hall in the centre of the community, with housing on either side there would be a restriction on opening hours with the premises having to close early, which would severely restrict its potential for increased use by the community and more importantly its ability to get funding.

Coupled with this and the warning from the Lottery Fund that moneys were more readily available for new build schemes due to reduced maintenance costs over forthcoming years forced the Trustees to consider the option of a new hall in a new location. A piece of land next to the Warcop Church of England Primary School was identified and the planners and highways in principle gave their backing as it will group the community facilities in one place and provide a much needed car park for the school plus the possibility of an off the road footpath route to all these facilities. They also gave their support to the existing Village Hall becoming 4, two bedroomed apartments and the income from its sale plus the Reading Room disposal will make a substantial improvement to the scheme.

So the Village Hall Trustees recognised this was a once in a lifetime opportunity that had to be shared with the community and so launched a survey of the Parish to obtain views on whether to refurbish the existing hall or to build a new hall. The survey was delivered to every household representing 488 people and 43% of all households replied.

12.5% said they didn’t know or had no preference.
32% wanted to refurbish the existing.
55.5% wanted a new hall.

So the option for a new Village Hall, won by a unanimous 2 to 1 when the votes of those with no preference are combined with those who voted for a new hall, a decision which has been ratified by the Village Hall Trustees and they would like to thank everyone who returned their survey for taking part. A Building Sub Committee has been appointed under the chairmanship of Cumbria County Councillor, Martin Stephenson assisted by representatives of the community including Sandford Institute and Eden District Council with Rory Stewart’s backing.

As you will recall this is an unusual challenge in that unlike most Village Hall projects, by locating it next to the primary school in Warcop, a school which is short of space, it will be
able to share the facilities. Along with other groups or organisations it will mean the new hall achieves 80% utilisation, which is unheard of in Cumbria. Work has commenced on preparing the brief by visiting recently constructed Village Halls and consulting all potential users so that a key outcome of the project is the potential to improve community cohesion by involving all age groups including providing facilities for the school who wish to use it for PE, Drama, Music, Assembly and the kitchen as they are a “Let’s get Cooking” school.

We are now developing a business plan so that we can apply for funding for this sustainable purpose built facility and so far funding has been received from the Local Strategic Partnership and Neighbourhood Forum for the parish survey.


The Reading Room sadly closed in 2009 and since that time the remaining Trustees have been struggling with the increasing risk of insolvency and in order to explain the charities current circumstances it is necessary to step back in time.

Warcop Reading Society was founded in 1857 and the single large room was constructed in 1872 with the stated “objects” of “being for use by the inhabitants of the area without distinction of political, religious or other opinions for a) meetings, lectures and classes and b) other forms of recreation and leisure-time occupation”. An extension on the west side was constructed in 1920 so that a billiard table and later a pool table could be located in the main room. An outside toilet and log store were also added at that time.

The Reading Room closed its doors for the last time in June 2009, following a period of falling numbers and two public meetings which concluded that as nobody had come forward and because the charities funds were low the building would close with immediate effect.

The Trustees spent some time consulting with the Charity Commissioners before and after the public meetings and concluded that Warcop Village Hall was the only other charity within the area that had matching ‘objects’ and on the 19th March 2010 the Trustees of the Reading Room confirmed to the Village Hall their wish to transfer all assets to them so that the Hall could improve its facilities. For its part the Village Hall Trustees accepted the generous offer and proposed to name one of its rooms as The Reading Room as a tribute to the former institution and a plaque will be erected to honour its founders and objectives.

The Charity Commissioners confirmed their approval of this on the 29th March 2010 with the only restriction being that all assets must achieve the highest price possible for the benefit of the Village Hall. Based on this restriction and advice given by Land Agents the Trustees have applied for Planning Permission for the ‘change of use’ of the land and buildings from a Reading Room to a domestic bungalow and garden so that the property can be marketed, along with the contents.

1 comment:

  1. Please see the face book page for comments on what you would like in a new village hall.