Garvestone and Thuxton celebrate high-tech village hall

Villagers near Dereham have celebrated the opening of a �900,000 community complex including a state-of-the-art village hall, bowling green and play area.

The Garveston and Thuxton 'new build' project began seven years ago when a committee was formed to look into replacing their crumbling 1920s hall.

But as the finished project was formally opened on Saturday, committee members said they could scarcely have imagined in 2004 what impressive facilities would eventually stand on Dereham Road in Garvestone.

The huge new hall has brought improved meeting and events facilities for diverse groups including the parish council, primary school pupils and dance classes.

And it uses eco-conscious renewable energy features like a ground source heat pump, wind-catcher ventilation and natural light harnessed through sun pipes – with about half its electricity provided by a wind turbine behind the building.

Among the 100 guests invited for the grand opening ceremony were representatives from the project's two main benefactors – the Big Lottery Fund, which provided �423,317, and the Garvestone Charity Trust, which raised �200,000.

Committee chairman Richard Wright said: 'When we were asked to build a new village hall, we never thought we would have something like this.

Most Read

'It is great to see public money being used to the best advantage – this is what the Lottery is all about. We had �6,000 from the old village hall funds which started off the planning application, and that got the ball rolling.

'I think it is great for this community, which has not had facilities like these for years – in fact, for ever.'

A grant from Breckland Council in 2007 enabled the trustees to buy three acres of farmland behind the old hall, and an agreement was reached with neighbouring Garvestone Primary School to provide a new playing field in exchange for land on which to build the enlarged hall.

On part of this land, a pristine new bowling green was created, with the former green redeveloped as a children's play area.

In September 2009, competitive tendering for the project got under way, but the committee were still short of funding until a �423,317 award was confirmed by the Big Lottery's community building fund last February.

Committee member Liz Buckley played a vital role in the grant applications which made the project possible.

She said: 'The whole project cost nearly �900,000 but it was done in various stages. We started with the fact that the hall was 90 years old and falling into disrepair. The really important thing was that we involved the community in finding out what facilities they really wanted.

'The whole process took two or three years and it was at a time when the building costs went through the roof and grant funding was not so easy to get with the Olympics approaching. Fortunately the Big Lottery allowed us an increasing grant – it was originally �178,000 and increased to �423,317. You cannot know how much a building is going to cost until you put it out to tender.

The new hall also runs a post office counter twice a week, with a community library provided in the foyer.

Liz Buckley said: 'The village post office closed about eight years ago, so services like this become more important. It has become a very valuable contribution to the community.'

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter