Meeting of Whittington Parish Council at 7:30PM on Thursday 13th February 2020 at St Philip & St James Church, Church Ln, Whittington, WR5 2RQ
Present: Steve Burrows (Chair), Steve Brooker, Susan MacLeod, Jenny Knights, Dan Bayliss, Liz Potter, Rob Stepniewski
In attendance: David Hunter-Miller (Clerk), David Manning (Wychavon District Council), Jem Teal (Wychavon District Council), Rob Adams (District and County Councillor), Malcolm MacLeod (Chair Community Hall Management Committee), David Chestney (Community Hall Management Committee), members of the public
1. Apologies for absence
No apologies were received.
2. Declarations of Interest
Steve Brooker declared a Disclosable Pecuniary Interest in all items pertaining to Whittington Community Hall.
Susan MacLeod declared a Disclosable Pecuniary Interest in all items pertaining to Whittington Community Hall.
Liz Potter declared a Disclosable Pecuniary Interest in all items pertaining to Whittington Community Hall.
A dispensation had previously been granted to Steve Brooker to allow participation and voting on all matters pertaining to Whittington Community Hall.
A dispensation had previously been granted to Susan MacLeod to allow participation and voting on all matters pertaining to Whittington Community Hall.
A dispensation had previously been granted to Liz Potter to allow participation and voting on all matters pertaining to Whittington Community Hall.
4. Open Session
The meeting was adjourned for the open session.
4.1. Wychavon District Council
David Manning and Jem Teal were in attendance from Wychavon District Council to answer questions and aid discussions relating to the Community Hall project.
4.2. Whittington Community Hall
Malcolm MacLeod and David Chestney were in attendance from the Community Hall Management Committee to answer questions and aid discussions relating to the Community Hall project.
4.3. Public participation
No questions were received.
The meeting resumed following the open session.
5. Community Hall Project
It was noted that there had been four responses to the tender process for the new Community Hall build and the lowest bid was currently £820k + VAT (£220k more than the allocated budget for the project). Costs were higher than anticipated, primarily due to the removal of contaminated ground (over £110k) and additional drainage works (£50k). Officers at Wychavon District Council suggested that total build costs were broadly comparable, even favourable, to other similar projects that had been completed across the district.
The architect was reviewing the bids to see how the project costs could be reduced in line with the available budget, by lowering elements of the specification and by investigating elements of the build that could be postponed to delay initial costs (such as the car park). Revised tenders were still awaited.
Officers at Wychavon District Council confirmed that no further S106 funding would be available from housing developments in the parish, such as Whittington Walk, as contributions towards community facilities were no longer permitted under the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF).
Officers at Wychavon District Council had confirmed that there was some flexibility on construction start dates and that the funding available under the Community Legacy Grant scheme would remain open provided that progress on identifying the funding shortfall was made within six months and they were kept up to date.
A number of possible ways forward were identified as follows:
A. Abandon the project and forfeit the approved grant funding
B. Withdraw the current application for Community Legacy Grant Funding and reapply for a larger amount
C. Abandon the design for a bespoke community hall in favour of a more economical prefabricated building
D. Relocate the project to a different site, such as the open green space near to Kilbury Drive, in the hope that the site preparation costs would be lower
E. Tailor the build to reduce costs in line with budget
F. Increase available funding through grants, or other means, to meet the identified build costs
Option A: It was felt that there was identified demand for a new community hall and that this had been further confirmed via public consultation. It was noted that it was not likely that the parish would be able to secure this level of grant funding in future. It was thus resolved that the project should not be abandoned.
Option B: It was noted that the current grant of £300k was the largest that had been approved in Wychavon and as such to withdraw from this and reapply would have a significant element of risk as a second, larger application might not be approved. It was thus resolved to retain the £300k Community Legacy Grant Funding already approved.
Option C: It noted that a prefabricated modular building would not fit the requirements of the Community Legacy Grant and accordingly new funding applications would need to be progressed. It was also noted that a prefabricated building might not offer significant cost savings as initial quotes had come in at approximately £750k. It was felt that a prefabricated building might be a disappointment to parishioners that had waited a long time to see this project come to fruition. It was thus resolved that the project should continue with the architects proposed build.
Option D: Concern was raised that if an alternative site was proposed there would be significant additional costs to dismantle the old village hall and make the site safe/saleable. It was thought that there were risks in pursuing a new site as funding would need to be reapplied for, consultation would need to be undertaken again and the costs associated in acquiring and preparing the new site for construction were unknown. Additionally some £70k had already been spent to pursue the build at the current site and much of this would be irrecoverable if the site was changed. It was thus resolved to continue with a build on the current site.
Option E: It was resolved that the architect should continue to review the project to see where the build costs could potentially be reduced; similarly if it was possible to offset some of the initial costs by deferring non-critical elements (such as the car park) then this would be explored.
Option F: A number of additional funding sources had been researched; it was felt that the Severn Trent Community Fund, which offers grants up to £250k, looked most promising. The deadline for applications to this was March 2020. It was noted that a consultant could be appointed to make applications on the Parish Council’s behalf (costing up to £350 per day). It was thus resolved to pursue additional grant funding schemes as a matter of urgency, with priority given to the Severn Trent Community Fund, and that all applications would be made in-house.
If the build costs could not be reduced and if further grant funding was not made available to cover the remaining shortfall, then the only other means to make up the deficit would be an increase to the proposed public works loan (£120k had originally been identified). The worst-case scenario would be a public works loan totalling £420k. It was thus resolved that an increased public works loan would be utilised, if required, to make up any remaining funding shortfall to ensure that this essential project could continue.
Unfortunately revised tender submissions had not been received in time for this meeting.
It was noted that the Parish Council had currently settled invoices totalling approximately £15k +VAT in relation to the new Community Hall project. Additionally the Community Hall Management Committee had settled approximately £60k invoices relating to the project.
5.3. Name change
It was noted that the management committee had approved a change of name from ‘Whittington Village Hall’ to ‘Whittington Community Hall’. This was a change in the ‘working title’ of the hall and management committee; the legal name of the charity would have to remain as ‘Whittington Village Hall’ for the Charity Commission and in legal documents.
6. Councillors’ reports and items for the next agenda
Councillors were reminded of the need to submit a new Register of Interests form following the 2019 elections.
7. Date of the next meeting
The next scheduled meeting is at 7:30PM on Tuesday 25th February 2020.
The meeting closed at 9:29PM.