Village church given new life as community hub
A FORMER Arts and Crafts-style church is set to reopen as a community hub after a major £150,000 refurbishment.
Until a few years ago the parish of Sandleheath, near Fordingbridge, had no community meeting point.
So a team of residents joined forces to form a registered charity, Sandleheath Village Hall, and were able to negotiate a 25-year lease on the vacant St Aldhelm’s church building.
The plan was to raise £144,000 to fully convert and refurbish the former church to create a space for village activities, clubs and private hire, with modern facilities and disabled access.
Work already undertaken has included a new kitchen and toilet block, relaying and insulating the roof, new double-glazing and a full rewire.
Trustee Mike Richardson said: “The final part of the current refurbishment programme is to provide the fittings and equipment necessary to allow the hall to operate effectively, and the trustees are energetically fundraising towards this, boosted by a recent £10,000 donation from the National Lottery Community Fund.
“As well as curtains, tables and chairs, the hall needs presentation, catering and audio-visual equipment.”
Trustees also recently gained permission from New Forest District Council for a single-storey rear extension and eight new car parking spaces.
The hope is to finish the current refurbishment programme in time for the community facilities to reopen in June as Covid-19 restrictions ease. The rear extension and additional car parking are part of future aspirations which will require further funds.
A report from NFDC planning officer Vivienne Baxter concluded of the extension: “Whilst it is not as attractive as the original Arts and Crafts-style former church, care has been taken to provide windows which reflect original openings to the northern elevation of the main building.”
The extra parking spaces were needed to prevent future hall users from over-spilling onto an access road.