Ridgewood Village Hall is facing a crunch point in the autumn when many volunteers who help run the community facility intend to stand down.
Six management committee members have said they will not seek re-election at the annual meeting in October, including the chair of the committee, Karen Bedwell, the bookings officer and the website administrator.
There are concerns that the hall, off New Road, will have to be “handed back” to the owners, Uckfield Town Council.
Councillors are now seeking a detailed report on the functioning of Ridgewood Village Hall (RVH), which will probably be considered in March, so a way forward can be charted.
They hope to establish a dialogue with the committee to better understand what is happening and what might happen.
The issues around management of the hall were outlined to members of the town council general purposes committee on Monday (January 27) in reports from Mrs Bedwell and town clerk, Holly Goring.
Mrs Bedwell is a town councillor for Ridgewood but wrote the report as chair of the hall.
She said there was a lack of recreational facilities in the area, which would be made worse by the 1,000 homes development at Ridgewood Farm and another 119 planned for Mallard Drive.
“As chair of RVH, I have been part of the team instrumental in bringing back community events to Ridgewood and, as the council are aware, tried very hard to source funding to expand the Ridgewood Village hall to develop a building that can be used for more community groups, including plans for developing a vitality village and communal garden.
“Unfortunately, funding for this project has not been successful.
“Instead, the volunteer management team are preparing to spend approximately £80,000 this summer on refurbing the hall, creating two extra rooms for hire and bringing the hall up to spec for health and safety and disabled access.”
Mrs Bedwell said the risk assessments, legal requirements and paperwork to run a public building and a charity had increased dramatically since the original management team was agreed 30 plus years ago.
She said it not only required a volunteer with enough time to lead the committee but also with the skill set to meet and understand all the recommendations required of a public building in 2020 and beyond.
Future of village hall
She said a person had come forward to take the role of chair but could not fulfil the admin to the extent that she had in the last three years.
Hall bookings also took many hours.
“It is my job as chair to secure the long term future of RVH .
“Following the findings of the [town council’s] strategic plan, I strongly suggest that the town council approach the current management team at RVH and look to re-adopt the hall once the refurbishment is complete,” she said.
The council could develop the recreation ground to its “full potential” to benefit the whole Ridgewood community which would ease congestion in the town and provide easy access from the big new housing development and neighbouring estates.
Mrs Bedwell added: “It is a fact that the ownership of the village hall has had a detrimental effect on the success of grant funding by outside bodes and it is highly likely that Uckfield Town Council (UTC) would be in a better position to raise the capital required to extend the hall as intended to make the best use of its footprint.
Other community venues
“The income from the hall is a committed revenue stream that would only benefit UTC and if the hall is refurbished and brought up to spec it will not be costing UTC money to maintain in the short term and can be managed alongside Foresters Hall and the Hub with insurance, risk assessments, bookings etc,” Mrs Bedwell said.
She concluded: “RVH has had a good run of self-management, but times have changed and the village hall, like halls across the country, needs to evolve and be supported if it is to survive as an important hub of the community.
“It doesn’t matter who runs it.
“What is important is that it is there and providing the facilities that the local growing community needs, especially one which is about to experience a population explosion as Ridgewood is.”
The town clerk’s report to councillors said it wasn’t necessary for the committee to have a full complement of members elected at the agm.
People could be co-opted, roles remain vacant and, if needed, one or more town councillors could be brought on to the committee to keep it running.
Ms Goring suggested hall management processes could be reviewed to try and find efficiencies.
“If the RVH committee are serious about wishing to hand the hall back to the town council, consideration should also be given to the timing and cost of the internal refurbishment due to take place in the summer months,” her report said.
- Ridgewood Village Hall is owned by the town council and is leased (full repairing) to Ridgewood Village Hall Management Committee for 25 years from April 2010