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Work starts on village hall after 20-year battle for funds
WORK has started on a £300,000 revamp of a village hall in West Oxfordshire after a 20-year fundraising effort.
The project, which finally began on Monday, will see South Leigh Village Hall refurbished and a new kitchen and toilet block extension built. Villagers have contributed more than a third of the money to the project after two decades of donations and fundraising events.
The work, which will be completed by September, aims to encourage more clubs and societies to form and improve community spirit.
South Leigh Parish Council chairman Nicky Brooks said: “We are a smallish village and most people who live here are keen to have a community centre.
“They decided 20 years ago that this was going to be the form it took and so that is what we have done.
“We do not have a bus or footpath so it really is quite tricky to get anywhere and the villagers have plodded on with quite a run-down building.”
The project will feature a new kitchen and toilet block extension, including facilities for the disabled, and the main hall space will be enlarged.
Damp-proofing, insulation, wiring, a new heating system and double-glazed windows will also be installed. Sliding doors will be fitted in the main hall, which seats about 50 people, to allow it to be opened to an outdoor marque.
Mrs Brooks said: “The building was very damp, very cold and very mouldy, and plaster was falling off the wall.
“It was a place you put on your coat to go into rather than taking it off.”
Not only did it take 20 years to raise the funds, the project also dragged on because ownership papers were destroyed in a fire. The parish council eventually proved ownership of the former Victorian school building, which allowed it to apply for grants.
Mrs Brooks said: “We will be delighted when it opens and delighted to pay the villagers back for all their persistence over the years. We intend to run all sorts of groups, which will help build up that sense of community.”
The £300,000 project included more than £40,000 raised from community events and more than £60,000 from donations by villagers.
On top of this, Waste Recycling Environment Ltd (WREN) granted £75,000 and TOE2 (Trust for Oxfordshire’s Environment) pledged £5,000.