Grant funding for upgrades to community buildings in Needles estate

Plans to upgrade community buildings in the Needles estate have been successful in attracting grant funding.

Horsham District Council is refurbishing St Peter’s Hall and the Royal Air Forces Association Club (RAFA) in Blackbridge Lane, which will deliver energy efficiencies and reduce carbon emissions.

There will be a new air source heat pump heating system, solar panels and improved insulation.

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This week HDC confirmed it has been successfully awarded grant funding for the project.

St Peter's Hall and RAFA club

The buildings will be remodelled to create a more modern, flexible and efficient space which can be used by the community.

The refurbishment is set to be completed in September 2021.

Costs of the project were discussed at a full council meeting back in March.

The work, to improve energy efficiency and disabled access to the buildings, on the Needles estate, was expected to cost £500,000 – with £238,000 of that funded through a grant from Salix Finance.

The properties were previously let to two occupiers, Kings Church, which used St Peter’s Hall mainly as a drop-in and support centre and the RAFA club was for ex-RAF service men and women.

Officers described how the buildings have not only low energy standards but a poor internal arrangement, which makes them difficult to use.

Refurbishment and reconfiguation would provide an 80m2 hall, separate meeting room, new toilets, kitchen, office, entrance foyer, store areas and off-site parking for 11 cars.

Energy performance measures include insulated walls, floors and ceilings, air source heat pump and solar panels.

But at the full council meeting, members were told that the bid received for the work placed the cost at £630,000.

With the grant funding staying the same, that means the council will have to pay £392,000 rather than the budgeted £262,000.

Paul Clarke, cabinet member for finance, told the meeting that, while this was not competitive, the council had no time to look for another contractor as the conditions attached to the grant meant work has to start by March 31 and be finished within six months.

He said: “The alternative to doing this work is to construct a new building which would cost a lot more and is therefore not recommended.

“Officers will contact Salix to see if the grant condition on timing can be varied to allow more time to secure a more competitive price and if this is possible it will be done.

“In the meantime we are where we are.”

Leader Ray Dawe agreed.

He said: “It’s unfortunate that, given the speed this has to be achieved by, that we can’t look at competitive tenders. But on the other hand we can’t afford to lose £238,000 worth of grant.”

Ruth Fletcher (Lib Dem, Denne) told the meeting that there had already been a ‘great deal of interest’ from a range of community organisations in using the new facility.