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Getting old halls up to date

Life may be very different in many ways between big cities and small villages, but from the most massive metropolis to the humblest hamlet, there are key hubs for local communities that many rely on for their hobbies, clubs, events and youth activities. 

However, many of the community halls built around Britain are very old and, because they are owned by and rely so much on the finite resources of the voluntary sector, charities, churches and clubs, maintaining or improving them is not an easy task.

All that means taking radical steps to do more than than just patch up a building and keep it going from one year to the next can require a major commitment in terms of time, energy and, of course, cold hard cash.

However, in many cases such investment is being increasingly seen as essential, since the cost of running halls can often be prohibitive. Poor insulation and outdated construction means many facilities have become increasingly costly to run in the colder months, and are often chilly even with the heating on. 

Among the places where action is being taken to correct this is the hall owned by Rugby United Reformed Church, which has launched a £350,000 fundraising effort to replace its outdated hall with a new one. This will mean tearing down a building that lacks insulation with a well-insulated modern structure, the Rugby Advertiser reports.

The hall was constructed shortly after the Second World War and is used by around 350 people, but it was never meant to be used as more than a temporary structure, built as it was from the materials that were available in a time of scarcity.

Fundraising co-ordinator for Rugby United Reformed Church Jenny Martin said: “The building has now reached the end of its useful life and has no insulation, the windows and doors no longer fit properly, making security difficult, and it desperately needs new toilets and plumbing. 

"The building barely complies with Ofsted regulations and has no disabled access or facilities and is becoming increasingly difficult to maintain.

"It is very expensive to run due to lack of insulation, is very hot in summer due to the lack of insulation and the inability to open windows, and is very cold in the winter.

"Following advice from professionals it was decided to replace the worn-out building with one which has up-to-date insulation, efficient heating, and to take advantage of modern building methods and solar energy, making it cost-effective and leaving a legacy for future generations to meet on the site."

The hall in Rugby is just one among many across the country where action is being taken to make the facilities more energy efficient.

Earlier this month, the Romsey Advertiser revealed how the management committee for North Baddesley Village Hall in Hampshire have been taking steps to slash the energy used by the facility. The ultimate target is to cut this by two-thirds.

The first step towards this ambition has been to fit LED lighting and modify the illuminated exit and emergency signage. However, the next step will be to install more and better insulation. 

Among those helping raise funds for the project was local councillor Alan Dowden, who donated £1,000 to the scheme.

He told the paper the work being carried out represents "future proofing", adding: "This means the village hall will be able to keep the cost down of renting the hall."