Potton Hall for All given more time to raise funds after costs soar

A charity has been given until August 2023 to produce its share of the funding for a community building in Potton, after soaring costs threatened to derail the project.

By The Newsroom
Thursday, 7th April 2022, 11:47 am

Potton Hall for All is the charity involved and also the name for the new purpose built facility, which was originally estimated at £1.85m but has risen to nearer £3m.

Central Bedfordshire Council's executive had to decide whether to extend a May 2022 deadline for the charity's proof of funding commitment, as part of the overall cost is being met by planning application contributions.

Conservative Sandy councillor Tracey Stock presented a progress update on the project, telling the committee: "The plan was to raise £1.85m.

Potton Town Sign

"This was part funded by Section 106 contributions from three developments in the town totalling £994,316 with several other funding successes," she explained.

"Potton Town Council contributed £125,000, while it secured a further £500,000 through a public works loan and charitable donations trusts have pledged.

"The total is £1.7m so quite a large sum. But the pandemic has impacted significantly on construction costs. They've increased from £1.85m in 2019 to just under £3m in January.

"Timescales for delivery and the funding sources have seen a real impact. Potton Hall for All can't meet this May 2022 deadline to secure funding to release the Section 106 money.

"The charity has sought professional support to revisit its proposals and the cost projections for an alternative plan," added councillor Stock, the executive member for health, wellbeing and communities. "An extension has been asked for until May 2023

"A new funding strategy has been put together and it continues to fundraise, asking current funders to increase their pledges and approach other charitable trusts and the National Lottery community fund.

"If the charity is unable to raise the funds and start the build with a spade in the ground by May 2024 then a large portion of that Section 106 money, £755,836, would be reallocated to its original purposes.

"Monies for that would need to be spent by May 2029. I would like us to support the group by allowing more time to raise the funds because the pandemic has had such an impact on this.

"The hall is particularly for use by professional singing groups based in Potton, which are very good."

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Councillor Stock backed the second of three options to extend the deadline for evidence of full funding to August 2023.

CBC's corporate resources overview and scrutiny committee favoured this proposal, suggesting a review point of October 2022 should be included.

The Section 106 agreement for the development on the east side of Biggleswade Road in Potton included one-and-a-quarter acres of land which was transferred to the town council in February 2020 for a community building.

Conservative council leader and Arlesey councillor Richard Wenham described it as "a little disappointing but understandable" that the charity has been unable to raise the money because of the influence of the pandemic and the impact on construction costs.

"I'm happy we should adopt that option two recommendation to provide more time, but also make it clear if that sum can't be raised we need to think about the future of the Section 106 money."

The executive unanimously agreed to support this option extending the deadline to August 2023.