Can we provide a community building?

0 votes

Our parish includes playing/sports fields.  The pavilion burnt down some years ago and was never reinstated.  Since then shipping containers have been used as changing rooms and for the storage of scout equipment.

Our new Chair of the Parish Council wants to leave a new pavilion as his legacy and is pushing ahead at some speed, even though to date, the PC has not voted on whether this is something it wants to do.

He has obtained a building quote which the PC has not seen but which has been shared with other local groups. From this we understand that it is a steel structure that will provide changing rooms with showers and toilets, storage and a shop and cafe area (in our Neighbourhood Plan parishioners expressed a desire for a shop).  It is not clear whether it will encase the existing shipping containers or not. The Chair has provisionally agreed with local groups that the PC will provide and maintain this pavilion, with the sports association responsible for maintaining the changing rooms and a local community group the shop and cafe area.  The scouts will use and maintain the storage.

I feel we need to row back a little, as there are some fundamental points I am not clear on.  I've identified the following and would welcome any comments on these, or any I've missed. before I raise them with the Chair:

  • does the PC have the power to provide this?  We have no general power of competence and I don't think it would class as a village hall (we already have a village hall in any event)
  • will it require planning permission (I believe it will be in a different area to the original pavilion).
  • given the shared responsibility who will legally own the pavilion? Should we  set up a separate charity to do this?
  • is it prudent to commit to responsibility for ongoing maintenance when we have no idea what this may be
  • does the design meet legal accessibility requirements 
  • are we obtaining further quotes in line with our financial regulations
  • what criteria was used to select the company that has quoted and what due diligence was conducted on them?
Any thoughts or comments would be welcome.  I am not opposed in principle to this, but feel the Chair is pursuing a personal agenda without subjecting his plans to proper governance.
asked by (510 points)

3 Answers

0 votes
There's lots of information required by your post but I can answer a few...

One thing I definitely know about is that for contracts over £25000, the parish council is required to go out to tender and advertise the opportunity on the Government's Contracts Finder website.  There is no way that a single quote should be considered.

Secondly, watch out for the VAT trap for works to sports pavilions.  Parish Councils can claim VAT back as long as the amount doesn't exceed £52000 over a 7 year period.  This area is a minefield and you have to get professional advice on this.

What a can of worms!  I bet he wants to name the hall too....
answered by (5.1k points)
A bit of a side question but I thought it was only 3 years a PC could claim VAT back?
That is probably the case but the 7 year period is a calculation and not a claim.  You have to show that this is not usual; that it is an abnormal breach.  I think VAT notice 749 is the one that explains this - if you enjoy reading VAT notices!
0 votes
You do have the power to provide this, but you'll need planning permission and building regs approval.  Must be fully accessible.  Depending on which sports you are aiming to serve, there are different requirements and specifications for the changing facilities according to age groups and level of competition etc.

This sounds like a huge building and if you're doing it properly, you'll need to budget in the region of £1,750 per square metre for the build cost.  Do you have sufficient funds for this?  It all sounds a bit pie in the sky to me.  If you're going to external funders, you'll need to satisfy their requirements regarding design, procurement method etc. I'd start with a chat with your local planning authority to see what (if anything) they'll allow you to build on the site.

It might be cheaper to get a new Chair of the Parish Council than a new pavilion!
answered by (4.1k points)
I think you are putting the cart before the horse

All proposals  regarding the building should be put to the Parish Council as a motion on an agenda and voted on

If financial decisions are made bypassing this procedure the Chair could be surcharged

The fact that your Chair feels they can act as they are indicates that your Council along with 1000’s around the country have allowed themselves to be hijacked by dominant personalities either in the form of a Chair or a Clerk
Thank you both.  You have confirmed my fears that the Chair is pursuing a romantic dream.
This whole issue of Community buildings/Centres subject  fascinates me. We had a Village Hall which has morphed into a Community Centre which openly advertises itself as serving surrounding villages as well. The problem is the bigger it becomes the more money it loses and of course just our village precept pays. Are there any precedents for other PCs being asked to contribute? From a resident’s points of view they have no access to the debate as the Community Centre is managed by PC appointed committee ie there are no members. As regards fund raising the Committee states that any money they raise they will keep. Why would they do anything different as their grant is guaranteed
Most community centres have to pay their way without the guarantee of a blank cheque from the parish council.  Major funders such as the lottery would need to see a business plan that demonstrated the viability of the building before they would consider offering funding.  In your case, the future of the facility lies in the hands of 50% plus one of your parish council, not only those currently serving, but any who may follow them in the future.  If they pull the plug, the community centre would almost certainly have to close.  It's an uncomfortable inter-dependency.

Parish precepts vary enormously in your area, from under £20 to over £80 for a Band D property, so you are mid-range on this scale.  The sums of money seem large, but you live in a large parish, so the cost per head is minimal.  If my sums are right, your parish council, including the subsidy to the community centre, costs each resident about 50p per week.
0 votes
Our council had a similar problem and managed to build a pavilion despite the difficulties.

It required planning permission of course and we sensibly hired a project manager (not that the PM turned out that well!). Money came from the Public Loans Board. The PC now owns the building and land, but have leased the pavilion to a locally set up charity to manage it. They pay rent to the PC.

One problem you might encounter is with the various sport authorities, so you will be well advised to talk to them before progressing much further. They may even provide some funding, but will have some minimum requirements in some cases.

Do ensure that it will provide space for various indoor sports like indoor bowls, badminton or table tennis and the requirement for these sports to hold various competitions which may require several courts / tables in action at the same time.

Do also remember the problems with providing showers and the testing for Legionnaires' Disease which the lease holder will have to provide for.

So it could be done, but at some stage the PC and the public will need to be fully on board.
Good luck!
answered by (1.4k points)

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