Potton Hall for All is 'chasing moving goalposts' as estimated costs rise to £3m

Potton Hall for All faced pandemic delays and rising materials costs

By Euan Duncan, Local Democracy Reporter
Friday, 11th March 2022, 4:19 pm

The cost of a project to build a community hall in Potton has risen from the original £1.85m estimate to £3m.

Delayed by the pandemic and faced with the rising price of materials, fundraisers have considered economising on the design plans.

Potton Hall for All is the charity involved and also the name for the new purpose built facility.

Potton town sign

Part of the finance is due to be supplied by Section 106 developer contributions, but most of this money is time restricted.

The charity's progress towards securing enough money and the previously agreed funding deadline was reviewed by Central Bedfordshire Council's corporate resources overview and scrutiny committee.

Nearly £1m of developer funds have been secured for the project, according to a report to the committee.

"If work hasn't started by May 2024, £755,836 will be diverted for alternative purposes," it said.

"The remaining £238,480 of this money must be spent on other community hall projects in Potton by 2030.

"The pandemic has significantly impacted the availability of other funding sources, such as from charitable trusts, contributing to a funding gap of about £1m.

"The charity is unable to meet a May 2022 deadline to provide the full funding programme, as originally required to release the Section 106 funds, and has requested a further 12 months."

The cost has increased from £1.85m in August 2019 to £3m because of supply chain issues, added the report.

"If extra energy efficiency measures are required, this would add around £500,000."

Land for the building was transferred to the town council in 2020 through the legal agreement for the Tall Trees development in Potton.

An application to the South East Midlands Local Enterprise Partnership (SEMLEP) was put on the reserve funding list, although a Levelling up bid was unsuccessful.

But the town council secured £500,000 through a public works loan, after approval from the Department for Levelling up, Housing and Communities last May.

Conservative Sandy councillor Tracey Stock told the committee: "We really want to support the Potton Hall for All charity to achieve its funding or if they can't to look at remodelling the project.

"There was a suggestion of May 2023, but I want to extend that further until August 2023, so the charity can consider its funding and project," she explained. "That extra time is important."

Central Beds Council's community engagement manager Sarah Hughes said: "The charity has requested more time to continue that fundraising, when so many funds previously available have shut down or had to focus on other matters.

"There's still plenty to do, but the recommendation of going until August 2023 will be very helpful to the charity."

Conservative Ampthill councillor Paul Duckett wondered whether the organisation is confident it can make up any shortfall, adding: "There's no obvious adverse impact on Central Beds Council."

Independent Potton councillor Tracey Wye confirmed: "The group have worked very hard. With the pandemic, the cost of materials, they're chasing moving goalposts. Hopefully at some point soon this will stabilise.

"The extra leeway will give them the chance to catch up. It remains a much needed and much wanted option for Potton.

"It's been 20 years in the making. So to give them a little more time to get over the final hurdle would be fantastic.

"They've come this far and were almost there when everything changed. I've confidence they'll continue working as hard as they can, although we're living in uncertain times."

Councillor Duckett, who chairs the committee, replied: "That's the impression I get and I'm grateful for the reassurance."

A recommendation to the executive extending the deadline to August 2023 was agreed by councillors.