Public Works Loan Approved and Contract Awarded
Following on from the public consultation (details below), Whittington Parish Council have been successful in their application to the the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities & Local Government for a Public Works Loan of £420,000.00 for the Community Hall Project. All of the funding for the project is now in place.
The Parish Council unanimously resolved to award the contract for the project, in the sum of £760,000.00 excluding VAT, to Interclass PLC. Demolition of the old hall and construction of the replacement building will start November 2020 and will be completed summer 2021.
Community Hall Latest Plans
(click to enlarge)
Community Hall Consultation Results
We recently wrote to you and invited you to vote on a proposal to increase the parish precept. This was to support an application for a Public Works Loan to fund the build of a new Whittington Community Hall. As part of the vote, you were asked two questions, and of the 118 responses received the results were:
- Are you in favour of the Community Hall Project going ahead? – 76.3% in favour
- Do you agree to a total council tax precept increase of £36.00 annually for the purpose of the repayment of loan amounts for the proposed Community Hall Project? 62.7% in favour
The voting window closed on 10th August 2020 and as the majority voted in favour of the precept increase, the Parish Council applied (successfully) for a Public Works Loan.
Whittington Community Hall Consultation Questions & Answers
This is a digest of issues raised within responses to the recent household survey regarding the Public Works Loan application for the new Whittington Community Hall. We have attempted to provide answers as we think it important that the questions have an answer. The overall result was in favour and the many positive comments have been omitted.
Q: How is the Parish Council element of Council Tax calculated and how does it work year on year?
A: The precept is the parish council’s share of the council tax. The precept demand goes to the billing authority, the District Council, which collects the tax from all the dwellings within the parish area. The ‘precept’ is converted into an amount per council tax band and this forms part of the council tax bill. The Parish Councils precept requirement is assessed every year (usually in the autumn) through a stringent budgeting and financial forecasting exercise.
Q: How will the loan affect Council Tax for households in other than Band D (the example given)?
A: The projected precept rise for each tax band is as follows:
|Band A||Band B||Band C||Band D||Band E||Band F||Band G||Band H|
Q: Will the increasing number of households in Whittington, (as Whittington Walk is built / occupied), bring down the individual household cost of the loan?
A: The Precept is directly linked to the number of council taxpayers in the parish area, so as the number of households increase, the Precept will fall. Once Whittington Walk is fully occupied, that could result in a reduction of 20 to 30%.
Q: How is the cost spread across the Parish Council financial years and thereby Council Tax years?
A: The Community Hall Project is being partly funded by a Public Works Loan, repayable over 35 years. Payments for the Public Works Loan are taken twice annually, and are funded by the Precept (see above).
Other financial issues
Q: How economic is the hall cost and what process has been undertaken to ensure value for money? Has the design been altered to save money?
A: Please see tender and ‘value engineering’ process report (below).
The report and appendices provide a wealth of information relating to the tender process, the ‘value engineering’ that took place to reduce costs, and details of the build and proposed contents that fall within the contract finally awarded. The design of the hall and its layout remains as planned and in accordance with the Planning Permission.
Q: Why can’t Wychavon Council meet the total cost?
A: Community services (and therefore funding for this type of project) provided by Wychavon District Council is a discretionary service and not something that is funded by central government unlike ‘Statutory Services’ such as planning and housing. Wychavon does invest in its non-statutory services and Whittington Parish Council were successful in winning £300,000 of Community Legacy Grant funding having bid via a two-stage competitive bidding process. Match funding from Whittington Parish Council and Whittington Village Hall Management Committee was also a requirement of the bidding process. In total Wychavon District Council awarded £844,600 to eight projects, Whittington Parish Council was awarded more than any other applicant for Community Legacy Grant funds.
Q: Have the developers of Wildmore and Whittington Walk been asked to, or made, a contribution?
A: Housing developers make their contributions to the local infrastructure and community through ‘Section 106’ funding. The Parish Council have been successful in applying for £60,000 S106 funding to support the Community Hall Project and an application is being made for a further £15,000 to allow for landscaping and gardening at the village hall.
Q: Have other avenues of fundraising, especially a Lottery Grant been pursued?
A: Yes, although subsequently the ability to approach developers for community buildings has been stopped by Planning Policy guidance. Local fundraising activities have been ongoing in the village hall since 1954 and continued until its closure in December 2019. The Big Lottery/National lottery ‘Awards for All’ scheme invited organisations to bid for between £300-£10,000, successful applicants had to use any funds won for refurbishment purposes only. Whittington Village Hall was beyond repair and refurbishment was not a cost-effective proposition going forward.
Time is also a factor; it takes time to submit an application and receive a response, on average, from two to six months, depending on the funder and the scale of the grant.
A major problem is oversubscribed funding, the total amount of grant funding received by the voluntary and community sector has fallen in recent years and is likely to fall further, coupled with more organisations looking for funding equals greater competition. In some ways Whittington Parish has become a victim of its own success having won such substantial funding from Wychavon District Council via the Community Legacy Grant Scheme and Section106 monies.
Q: Were other buildings in the Parish or locally such as the school considered?
A: No. The land occupied by the current village hall is not suitable for any other purpose, the land was given to the Parish Council for the purpose of a hall only. A new hall is the only viable option for us. Whittington School Hall would not be suitable for use as it would not be large enough and does not have the appropriate facilities. As the school is a Primary school of one year entry the scale is not suitable and there is no room for expansion. There is one other village within the district that shares its community hall with a school. This does not work particularly well and there are issues with shared space and safeguarding issues over the transition from school to community use. A community building not available during the day would limit income and evening use is often curtailed due to exams and school activities and therefore not attractive to regular activity bookings.
Q: Will monies from hall rental etc. go towards paying off the costs?
A: The village hall is run as a separate charity entity and would continue to be self-funded. Any revenue generated by the new hall would go back into future improvements to the hall, maintenance expenditure and supporting events. The Parish Council cannot recover an income from the running of the hall for VAT reasons.
Design and location
Q: Why is it being built in Whittington village and not on a new estate in Whittington?
A: Lack of available land to build on and associated costs to buy land if it were sourced, plus cost of new build hall. The parish has four distinct parts and the current location of the hall is approximately central. If the new hall was sited at an alternative location the community would be left with a building and land that will require a huge sum of money to render it suitable for any other purpose, on land which was given to the council for the purpose of a hall only. A new hall is the only viable option for us.
Q: Can we see more detail of what is being built as we currently only have a drawing of the outside?
A: The latest plans have been uploaded (above).
Q: Will Parishioners get reduced fees when booking the new hall?
A: A new booking system will be developed during the Community Hall build. It is planned that Whittington parishioners will receive discount on any bookings made for the main hall or meeting room/s. At this time all booking fees have still to be confirmed.
Q: How will the Hall Committee ensure there is fair access to booking the hall as in the past it seems to have been run for the benefit of a small section of Whittington ‘villagers’?
A: All parishioners will be able to hire the hall or meeting room for suitable purposes and will be encouraged to make as much use of the building and surroundings as possible. Implementation of an online booking system is planned with telephone enquiries available for those without access to the internet. The hall has also been designed to cater for multiple groups at the same time which should positively impact on available booking space. Essentially the system would work on a “first come first served” basis.
The management committee will have a clear and accountable complaints process in place to respond to any operational complaints
Q: How will the ongoing finances of operating the new hall, including maintenance, cleaning and contingencies be managed so that it does not become a burden on the Parish?
A: Whilst the Parish Council own the land and will own the new hall, its financing and management is the responsibility of the Hall Management Committee which operates as a Charitable Trust and regulated as such. Accounts have to be rigorously kept and published every year and therefore finance forms a central part of the Committee’s business. Ultimately the success of the Hall and its future will depend on getting sufficient and regular use; the aim will always be to maximise that use and provide not just for maintenance but for future improvement and expansion of facilities as well. Clearly there must be a risk but with good management that risk should be mitigated. Any community project will only be successful with support from the local community and the Parish Council and the progress of the project in the recent past would indicate strong support from all sections of our community.
Q: How will events and facilities be marketed to ensure everyone in the Parish is aware and can use / attend?
A: Via the following:
- Parish Council website via Community Hall page/link.
- Parish Council Facebook page
- Parish Council noticeboards throughout the parish
- Management Committee Facebook page & website when launched
- Parish Newsletter
- Word of Mouth
Q: How much parking space will there be?
A: There are 32 parking spaces laid out for the new hall, including 2 disabled spaces. The surrounding land has been designed in an optimum way to maximise spaces. There will be more spaces than is currently available and every effort will be made to use the car park and avoid parking in other areas.
Q: How will pollution, traffic and noise be managed effectively?
A: The implications of these aspects were evaluated as part of the planning process. The community hall wants the building to be the heart of the community and this will simply not happen if the management and the local community don’t work together to avoid disputes and minimise any potential disruption. The Contractor for the project, Interclass PLC, has already undertaken to limit the size of heavy vehicles delivering to the site recognising the nature of Church Lane; also to mitigate the effects of the works on the neighbours as far as possible during construction.
Q: How will parishioners access the hall, including those living on Wildmore on the other side of the dual carriageway?
A: Access is assumed to be mainly by a short relatively congestion free drive, particularly at night. By day with improved pedestrian and cycling facilities from Wildmore and Whittington Walk Estates there is the option of walking on the footpath network which will connect with all parts of Whittington Parish. Whittington Parish is split by several road networks which separate it into a number of areas including Pershore Road and St Peter’s. On this basis the Hall lies roughly in the centre near the church, it is equally accessible to all as most would need to drive. Much the same question about accessibility would arise wherever the new hall were to be placed in the parish. Any other location would cost considerably more because of the need to acquire and prepare land.
Contract Tender Report
In the interests of public transparency, the Parish Council recently resolved to publish the Tender Report relating to the new Community Hall.
The report has been redacted to remove commercially sensitive details relating to the companies taking part in the tender process.
The report and appendices provide a wealth of information relating to the tender process, the ‘value engineering’ that took place to reduce costs, and details of the build and proposed contents that fall within the contract finally awarded.
There are some remaining items that will be provided via fundraising and separate grant applications (eg. a proposed ‘community garden and landscaping for which a grant is under application).