£500k lotto hope for hall

John Barnett inside St Mary's Community Hall

John Barnett inside St Mary's Community Hall

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VOLUNTEERS who have been working tirelessly to bring a church hall back to life are a step closer to securing £500,000 of lottery funding.

Supporters of St Mary’s Community Hall, in Horden, have successfully completed the first stage of a bid to get a Big Lottery grant for half-a-million pounds.

Stage 1 of the funding process saw volunteers and community groups submitting an outline plan of their vision of improvements to the 99-year-old hall.

It is hoped new meeting rooms, a new upper floor, an improved heating system and better access will be added if future stages of the bid are successful.

The group working on the bid, which includes Horden Colliery Residents’ Association, Accent Housing and other agencies, are celebrating after getting through the first round of bidding.

Now they are set for Stage 2, which includes consulting the local community and asking them how they would like to see the hall improved.

Displays and information stands will be available for people to comment on at the hall, in Blackhills Terrace, every Wednesday.

The project comes on the back of work that has already seen big improvements at the hall, led by the residents’ association, whose chairman is John Barnett.

Accent’s community organiser, Michael Fishwick, said: “There was so much interest and enthusiasm in the residents’ association’s painting project that we thought ‘let’s go for it and have a try for this lottery grant’.

“We are looking to complete the refurbishment and we want to turn the hall into a centre for neighbourhood renewal which will support residents in the numbered streets and further afield.

“We would like to deliver local services and help with jobs, training and health education.

“It will still belong to the church, but all sorts of agencies will be based there.”

Mr Fishwick said the second stage application must be submitted by October and the groups hope to hear soon after whether they can progress to the third stage, which will include detailed plans of the project.

Anyone who cannot make it along to the consultation events, which coincide with a weekly food co-op and coffee morning from 10am-noon on Wednesdays, can call Mr Fishwick on (0191) 5691509.