THE people of Hurst Green are celebrating the final piece in the financial jigsaw which will, at last, solve the heating problem in their village hall – and enhance their green credentials.

The Big Lottery Fund has confirmed it will donate £81,500 to provide ground source heating for The Memorial Hall on Avenue Road.

With close on £56,000 being raised with cash from local fund-raising functions and pledged by other grant funders work is now under way.

The hall was built by the villagers in the fifties and sixties and was beginning to show its age.

There is still a lot of emotional investment in the hall, which was built to honour the war dead from the parish, so, two years ago, a project group consisting of members of the parish council and the village hall committee was formed to draw up plans to bring the hall into the 21st century.

“We held a consultation exercise with the parishioners to work out what was the best plan for the hall,” said Niall Macfarlane, chairman of the village hall committee.

“We put forward all sorts of ideas – even the possibility of demolishing the hall and rebuilding elsewhere but there were a lot of obstacles to this, not least opposition from a large number of parishioners.

“Finally, it was decided to refurbish the hall to make it fit for purpose again. The biggest issue was the heating – in winter it can get really cold and draughty – but the roof was the most pressing problem. The concrete tiles were deteriorating and leaking in places so we decided that it should be the priority and we made it phase one.

“The heating is phase two, refurbishment of the interior, covering the changing rooms for our village football club, is phase three (a) with upgrading of the kitchen and mezzanine floor and a lift for the disabled as phase three(b). We even have a phase four but that’s way in the future.

“When we roughly costed the plans and informed the parishioners that we were looking at raising in excess of £300,000 there were many who said it could not be done. Well, we are well on our way, thanks to our two sterling grants gurus, Barbara Herd and Margaret Carrington, who have put in a staggering amount of work to source grant funding. Up to now they have brought in grants of more than £200,000.”

Local folk have also pitched in with fund raising through bingo sessions, donating raffle prizes and holding mini auctions and the roof was replaced last year at a cost of £72,000, raised through grant aid and local fund raising.

A total of £137,000 was needed for the heating and, in 2018, the Big Lottery was approached.

“They said that if we were successful, and that was by no means certain, they would not be able to fund the £56,000 needed for the heat pump itself,” said Margaret.

“So we had to approach other funders and raise money from local people – then of course we were hit by lockdown.

"Happily, we got lots of support and we have been able to source the £56,000 needed. Once lockdown is over we will gear up our local fundraising again.”

Margaret and Barbara are particularly proud that The Big Lottery, when awarding their grant, congratulated them on a ‘really good bid’ which ‘had covered all the bases’.

A site meeting has already been held between the contractors and a local farmer, who is doing the ground works for the heating coils to be laid under the Bailey Field behind the hall, and excavations will start in the next few weeks.