Saturday, 08 May 2021

Makeover of parish hall finally approved

WORK to extend and refurbish the parish hall in Benson will cost no more than £524,000 plus VAT.

The parish council was granted planning permission for a ground floor and roof extension in July following years of debate about the building’s future.

The redevelopment means the parish office will be enlarged from 8.8 sq m to 20.87 sq m and moved to the front of the building.

A lift will be installed and the kitchen and toilet facilities will be refurbished so that the hall can be used to host big events like it used to in the past. 

The total cost of the project is likely to be £608,000.

The parish council has agreed to fund the remainder of the project using previously precepted funds plus any grants available, with the balance being paid from the council’s portion of community infrastructure levy contributions.

The council appointed Blueprint Construction Consultants, of East Sussex, to provide contract preparation and post-contract supervisory services, spending no more than £14,000 plus VAT.

Teresa McTeague, who chairs the halls committee, said: “The parish hall extension is a long ongoing saga with many stops and starts going back over many different chairmen.

“Over the years the plans have been amended in response to parishioners’ comments. Our hall is absolutely fantastic — it’s one of the biggest ones in the area and used to be a venue for big parties and weddings.”

She said the work would bring the hall back to its original glory and it could be used for big events again.

Some residents expressed concern about such a large amount of money being spent on the project but the council reassured them that it would improve the quality of the services delivered to the community as the hall would be easier and cheaper to maintain and would look better.

A public consultation on the redevelopment of the hall was first discussed in 2013. Planning permission for an extension was granted in 2017 but, having gone out to tender, the council thought the project was too expensive so scrapped these plans.

In 2019, a community space was included in a development in Littleworth Road so this was removed from the parish hall design, making the project more affordable.

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