Although the hall had been well looked after, by the late 2010’s age was beginning to take its toll. The original 1905 building suffered from a lack of insulation, some damp problems, inappropriate heating, and structural issues with the suspended floor.
Nevertheless it was well used by the community and the lack of space meant some events were oversubscribed. Users of the hall would put in a lot of work to promote their events and the trustees felt that the premises were not playing their part in achieving the Trust’s charitable aims
By 2018, the idea of improving the fabric was taking hold, but insulation internally would mean losing space. The proposal to extend would mean this could be accommodated at the same time as increasing capacity and reach of the hall.
Plans were well advanced by the Summer of 2018 and a public consultation was well attended by local people and businesses. Even our local MP turned out to offer her support.
There was a 100% approval for the principle of the project and response forms helped inform some of the subsequent decisions about the final direction of the design.
The proposals were granted plannimg permission shortly afterwards. All we needed now was the money!
With a forecast cost of £275k the task of raising the money for the project was not inconsiderable. Whilst we had some reserves, these were miniscule in relation to the amount needed.
Nevertheless a small but happy band of volunteers set about identifying possible funding sources, and preparing and submitting bids.
We soon learnt that there was very little ‘copy and paste’, about this process. Each funder, rightly, has their own criteria and their own set of questions, and even where they were the same questions, word limits were different.
There were some disappointments, but mostly our funders got why we wanted to do this, and we soon got near our total.
We are therefore really grateful to the organisations and individuals for their help, enthusiasm and support:
- The National Lottery Community Fund
- ACRE, (Action with Communities in Rural England)
- The Trusthouse Charitable Foundation
- The Princes Countryside Fund
- Garfield Weston
- Norfolk Community Foundation
- Bernard Sunley Charitable Foundation
- The Geoffrey Watling Charity
- Borough Council of King’s Lynn & West Norfolk
- The Rank Foundation
- Barton Bendish Parish Council
- Barton Bendish Parochial Church Council
- Freebridge Community Housing
- Barton Bendish Film Club
- Waitrose Foundation
- And of course, a number of individual donations
Following a competitive tender process, the build contract was let to a local company, M J B Building Contractors from Downham Market.
The day we started coincided with the 1st Covid-19 lockdown, i.e. 23rd March 2020. Fortunately, as a small family firm, the contractor was able to continue on site and make some progress whilst observing all the Covid-19 precautions.
Some supply was disrupted, and the sequence of works needed to be changed, and inevitably there were associated delays due to the Covid situation, but in all the works progressed as well as could be expected.
We are extremely pleased with the collaborative approach taken by the contractor and their sub-contractors. Their enthusiasm for the project shows in the completed building and we are grateful to them for persevering through some difficult times.