Village hall is ready for first phase of big facelift

Bold plans are in the pipeline to redevelop Chidham Village Hall.

The hall which is more than 100 years old, is in need of some much-needed TLC to make it more sustainable in the long term and to make it accessible to the wider community.

For the past two years the village hall’s committee has been looking at ways to bring about the change, and has settled on a scheme of three phases.

It means there will be a new extension over the entrance lobby which will house a lift to the first floor, which at the moment is inaccessible for wheelchairs.

There will be a completely new toilet block, and internal refurbishments on the ground floor, including a new storage area and french doors opening out to a new patio area, while there will be a new floor laid on the first floor. It has all been designed in the style of how the building would have once looked when it was in use as an oast house for storing the famous Chidham grain.

Chairman of the hall committee, Rod Isted said he was hoping to have planning permission before the end of the year.

“We could not leave it any longer,” he said. “We need to make it more attractive.

“It is no good building something now that in five years we will be struggling to get people in.

“We have been limited in the usage. We had someone come in last week wanting 120 people catered for at a wedding, but we couldn’t do it.”

He said they will be carrying out informal consultation, talking to the parish council, Chichester Harbour Conservancy, and other village groups.

Phase one, which is the extension and lift, will cost £165,000.

The new kitchen, outdoor patio area, toilets, and refurbishment of the ground floor in phase two will cost £98,000, and the new floor on the first floor in phase three will cost £67,000.

Mr Isted said the committee will be applying for grants from local and national authorities for the work, as well as relying on help from the village community to reach their target.

That target could have been considerably bigger had they gone ahead with a plan four years ago.

The committee was looking at creating one large centre for the village at the St Wilfrid’s Church Hall in Broad Road, but the £1m cost spelt the end of that plan.

One part of the work to make the hall more accessible has already been completed. Local building firm, Castle Contractors laid a new path and built a ramp into the entrance lobby, which for the first time makes it wheelchair friendly.

The official opening of the new ramp will take place on Saturday, March 3.

The launch event will take place between 11am and 1pm when there will also be plans on show in the hall about the development.

Refreshments will be available, and a performance will be given by the Chidham Ukelele Orchestra.

Before winter set in the 30-year-old heating system was also replaced, thanks to grants from Chidham and Hambrook Parish Council, Chichester Harbour Conservancy, the Film Club, and the local WI.

Mr Isted added: “Unless we put the new heating in by September we would have had trouble keeping it open.”