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Statement on Hersham Village Hall

Statement on Hersham Village Hall

Bringing an important community facility back into operation

On 14 September an Individual Cabinet Member Decision making meeting will consider an exciting proposal for the leasing of Hersham Village Hall. 

If approved, Kingston Trampoline Academy (KTA) will take up residence at Hersham Village Hall, bringing an important community facility back into operation, 2 years since it became an NHS COVID-19 testing centre, which closed in March 2022.

We have undertaken an extensive piece of work through local agents to find the most suitable organisation who is able to bring the hall back into use, maximise its benefit for the community and provide an income to the Council that can be reinvested.

We believe KTA is a great opportunity for a sustainable future for the hall, enhancing the facilities available to the community and providing residents with access to additional leisure opportunities. Their proposal plans to use the hall for their classes and coaching. Classes would be open to all ages and abilities and KTA aim to work with local schools, scouts and guide groups, with plans to hold classes for children with special needs and disabilities.

Alongside these classes, KTA would use the facilities to coach elite athletes that represent British and English teams, as well as providing education and employment training schemes for young adults.

Under their proposal, not only would KTA take on the significant annual cost of running the building (currently met by the council), they would also pay rent, which can be reinvested back into the local community. Additionally, they would make a large self-contained room within the building available for hire by the local community.

On 14 September 2022, a committee meeting, which will be webcast and open to the public to attend, will be held so that the terms of the lease to KTA can be considered by the Portfolio Holder for Resources. To attend the committee meeting please complete our online form.

FAQs

How much money has been spent on the refurbishment of the hall?

In 2017 Councillors were presented with options on the future of Hersham Village Hall. This included a proposal to spend £650,000 on the building to extend its life for the subsequent five-year period, or to carry out a major refurbishment of the hall at a considerably higher cost to the council. At the time, Councillors decided to progress with the option to extend the useful life by five years at a cost of £650,000 with the hope the building would last further into the future. These works were completed in September 2020 at which point the building was let to the NHS as a Covid-19 testing centre.

What has happened to the rent received from the NHS over this period?

We made a decision not to charge the NHS rent for the building when it was operating as a Covid-19 testing centre. The NHS covered the costs of their utilities and ensured the building was put back into the condition it was in before they took occupation.

Why is the council letting the building to a private company?

Following the closure of the Covid-19 testing centre in March 2022, we have been looking at options to bring the hall back to an active use that provides community use, ensures the hall usage is maximised, whilst also facilitates further leisure and fitness opportunities for local residents. The most suitable offer received was from a company called Kingston Trampoline Academy (KTA) that supported the above considerations but also operate as a private limited company.

Whilst KTA is a private company their Directors have never taken a dividend which means they are able to access a range of funding that is open to non-profit organisations.

The decision to let the hall will be made at the committee meeting on 14 September 2022.

How would KTA provide a community use?

The proposed use of the hall by KTA Sport and Leisure Ltd, trading as Kingston Trampoline Academy, fits the definition of a community asset as their main purpose serves the educational and recreational needs of the general community. In addition whilst KTA will be using the main hall, they have agreed to make a large self-contained room within the building available for hire by the local community.

Did the council go beyond their delegated powers in making a decision to let the building?

Officers have not made any decision to let the building; they have made recommendations to Portfolio Holders and Ward Councillors. Under the Council’s Constitution, Officers are delegated to provide advice and recommendations to Ward Councillors and the relevant Portfolio Holders.

The decision relating to the future use of the hall will be made by the Portfolio Holder responsible for Resources at a committee meeting on 14 September, which is open to the public to attend.

In addition, if this proposal is approved it will be subject to a ‘Change of Use’ from one use class to another. This is a separate statutory decision-making process undertaken by the Planning department of the council and this decision is available for public scrutiny and comment. The application for this change of use can be viewed on our website.

Why is this the most suitable offer?

Based on our experience, we know that to be financially sustainable for the Council we need to consider all the options for Hersham Village Hall. The options have to ensure the hall provides community use, and that that usage is maximised, as well as ideally providing opportunities for leisure and fitness for local residents. Additionally, the costs of running the hall also needed to be covered. KTA’s proposal met the requirements set out for Hersham Village Hall.

KTA were displaced from Elmbridge when the Xcel Leisure Centre was constructed meaning they lost their former home. They have been looking for suitable premises which would accommodate their height requirements within the borough since then, however have been unsuccessful so far. Industrial units (the natural alternative) are in extremely short supply and not a natural fit for young people to attend. A residential and commercial setting is a much better environment for their customer base, and these opportunities are extremely rare.

How will KTA benefit the local residents and wider community?

Under their proposal, not only would KTA take on the significant annual cost of running the building (between £80,000 - £100,00 per year currently met by the Council), they would also pay rent of £50,000, which can be reinvested back into the local community. 

KTA work with elite athletes, with current members having been selected for the British and English teams in their discipline. This is aided by their links to the UK Sport's Olympic Talent Transfer programmes, Bounce 4 Gold, and From Home to the Games.

KTA will be working with local schools and Scouts and Guide groups with plans to hold classes for children with specialist needs and disabilities.

At their current site they provide community-wide projects for residents including disability trampoline, London Youth Games and the Kingston Schools trampoline event.

How can a private limited company benefit the local community?

KTA is a private limited company by definition. However, the Directors have never taken a dividend which allows the company to access funding and grants aimed at non-profit organisations. To date, any profit generated has been used to grow and develop the business which is benefitting the identified community. The company believes in paying taxes and contributing to the broader community.

Without this approach KTA would not be able to access the non-profit funding streams.

What about the interest from the Hersham Community Trust CIO that they could take on the management of the hall?

A formal committee meeting was held to consider the proposal from KTA in June, however the Portfolio Holder for Resources decided any formal decision would be delayed to enable the Hersham Community Trust (HCT) to consider putting forward a viable proposal to take on the management of the hall. We have now received confirmation that HCT will not be putting forward a proposal to take on and manage the hall.

If the letting is approved the local community would lose a village hall. Where would they be able to hold events?

KTA have offered to make an upstairs amenity room available for hire by the local community either as a large room or subdivided into two smaller rooms. A second room will be fitted out as a strength and conditioning gym for their athletes which will be made available for other sports clubs to hire, although this will not be available to be used as a commercial gym.

In addition, before the hall closed in 2017 a survey revealed that it was underutilised, with statistics demonstrating that it was in use only 14% of the time. As part of our review we made contact with as many of the existing previous hirers as possible to establish whether they would return to using the Hall, but none of them indicated a positive interest in returning. There are currently 10 community hiring venues and halls within a 1.5 mile radius in Hersham. We concluded that reopening the hall purely as a hiring facility would result in drawing hirers and income away from other local venues.

What other benefits will this bring to Hersham and the local community?

The proposed letting is expected to bring more footfall to the local area which would in turn benefit the local shops, businesses, and village centre. In addition, there is a significant annual cost to us to run the building, and KTA are prepared to take on the running costs and pay a rent. The rent can then be reinvested back into services which will benefit our local communities.

Why is Hersham Village Hall and the Centre for the Community included within the draft Local Plan?

The Draft Local Plan is a prepared by us as part of our statutory function to identify potential sites suitable for housing in the future. This does not automatically mean that the site will be developed for housing. The council, as landowners remain open to the halls continued use for community purposes providing it is sustainable to do so. More information on the local plan can be found on our website.

Why are the running costs for the hall so high?

The hall is a large building to maintain. Whilst the property is the councils responsibility, it is liable for paying Business Rates and utilities, as well as carrying out statutory tests and any planned preventative maintenance internally and externally.

As a hiring facility, without inhouse staff to run such an operation, the council were previously responsible for paying a management fee to a company to manage all bookings, including caretaking, staffing, internal repairs and maintenance, cleaning, and the administration involved in invoicing. If we did not outsource this function, we would need to recruit additional staff to do this.

The proposal from KTA is that they would take on these costs. The outcome of this, is that instead of having running costs of between £80,000 to £100,000 each year, the council no longer be responsible for these costs but also receive a rent of £50,000 per annum.

Is the hall in a fit state to rent out?

We have a duty to ensure our buildings are safe and compliant with health and safety regulations. All the buildings within our ownership are subject to routine repair and maintenance programmes. In 2017 we agreed that works would be carried out to upgrade the hall to a satisfactory standard which would prolong its useful life. The Hall is in a fit state of repair, with all statutory tests and checks carried out and certificated as required.

What will happen if the KTA proposal is not approved?

A village hall model is not financially sustainable for the Council and therefore if the proposal from KTA is not approved we will need to remarket the property to secure an alternative community use. Whilst the building remains empty it continues to cost the Council several thousand pounds a month in terms of costs including utilities, rates, routine maintenance and statutory compliance.

 

You may be interested in previous updates on Hersham Village Hall.

 

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