Halesworth Rifle Hall prepares for new era

THE future of a run-down Halesworth hall looks to finally be secure with a new trust set to take on the building next month.

Waveney District Council will officially transfer the town’s Rifle Hall into the custodianship of the newly- formed Rifle Hall Trust on April 1.

Last year, the council invited people in Halesworth to put forward their proposals as to how they would take on the administration of this charity.

Three local groups expressed an interest and the proposal selected was the one that, in the view of the authority, would best fulfil the charitable objects of the hall – to maintain it as a “village hall” for the people of Halesworth.

The preferred proposal was submitted by a local group led by John Marshall-Potter, who is best known in Halesworth for running the annual community event Gig in the Park, which uses all surplus money each year to fund local projects including part of the Christmas lights switch-on.

The Charity Commission has now transferred the charitable status to the new Rifle Hall Trust and the group is well into the first stages of a planning application to revamp the hall.

Mr Marshall-Potter said: “The hall has stood on that site for 218 years and is of strong historic importance to the town. We want to preserve the history of the building whilst making it fit for the 21st century.

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“We have held several consultations in the hall with Waveney’s conservation officer, our architect, Waveney’s planning officer and English Heritage. Between us we have come up with what we all feel is the right way forward for the hall.”

The trustees, who include the Hollywood actor Bernard Hill, are now in the process of applying for grants and funding both from funding bodies and the private sector.

Some sizeable contributions have also already been made to the start-up fund and pledges have been offered by local companies in the form of materials at cost, as well as testing and certifying the new installation.

Chairman of the new trustees, Tony Goldson, said: “One of our plans is to install photo voltaic thermal panels to the new extension roof.

“This will earn the charity money as energy is supplied back to the grid and we are pursuing an energy efficient approach to the revamped hall to minimise costs. Our aim is to become as carbon neutral as possible.”

A council spokesman confirmed: “Giving the Rifle Hall Trust the opportunity to take over the running of Halesworth Rifle Hall is a real Big Society initiative and an excellent way of giving the local community more direct control over what matters most to them with their hall.

“Transferring this charity into the hands of local trustees represents a really positive step forward, that will ensure the future of the hall is secured in a sustainable way. Additionally, it should mean that the facilities available to local people will be dramatically improved.”