Plans for state-of-the-art Rifle Hall

PUBLISHED: 09:00 30 July 2010 | UPDATED: 09:55 01 August 2010

ORGANISERS of Halesworth's Gig in the Park will be displaying plans for a state-of-the-art Rifle Hall at next week's festival as part of a bid to take over the running of the historic town building.

ORGANISERS of Halesworth's Gig in the Park will be displaying plans for a state-of-the-art Rifle Hall at next week's festival as part of a bid to take over the running of the historic town building.

Waveney District Council, the current trustee of the hall, is looking to hand over the Rifle Hall to a new management committee after it was decided it was no longer cost-effective for the council to run.

The closing date for takeover bids is today, and among the various proposals being presented to the council will be plans from members of the Halesworth Gig in the Park team.

John Marshall-Potter, who is on the committee, said he and two other members of the team were looking to form a mixed committee from various representatives within the community to help make the Rifle Hall into a 21st century venue that will attract users from all over the area.

Their proposal will be on display at next weekend's Gig in the Park, where people will be able to give feedback.

Mr Marshall-Potter said: “We first started to look at this at the beginning of the year when an article came out in the papers saying that the local Cancer Research group had stopped using the kitchen for its lunches because it was no longer 'fit for purpose,' We're trying to turn this into something that will last the next 100 years in Halesworth. There's an awful lot of work that needs doing. Our aim is to raise enough money to completely rebuild it.”

He said that they were planning to do around £750,000 worth of refurbishments should they be successful in their bid, including new sides to the building, roof solar panels for energy, top range lighting and sound facilities, new toilets, rewiring, a new kitchen, and a new bar area.

However he said he was also keen to preserve the historic identity of the building.

While the initial plans have been put together by members of the Gig in the Park team, Mr Marshall-Potter stressed that the management committee would be made up of people from all over the local community.

He said he had so far been amazed by the positive response from the people he had talked to about the plans, and that he already had a long list of potential user groups, as well as three large local companies who have pledged support.

Mr Marshall-Potter said that ideas he had so far received included bringing back the old Saturday morning cinema club that was at the hall in the '60s and early '70s, a bi-monthly jazz supper, dinner dancing, a badminton club, and mother and toddler groups.

“Everyone I've talked to has come up with exciting ideas and ways to use it,” he said. “It's an opportunity for the town to run it ourselves. It was bequeathed to the people of Halesworth.”

Meanwhile local MP Therese Coffey has leant her support to the bid, saying that the idea of local people taking over the hall was representative of the “community self-help” theory that the Government is pushing.

She said: “I welcome proposals put forward by people from Halesworth and beyond for embracing and re-invigorating the Rifle Hall. Truly, this is the Big Society in action and I wish those involved well.”

Waveney District Council will now look at each bid and pass on its preferred choice to the Charity Commission. The Commission will then pass power over to the successful bidders if it agrees with the Council's choice.

Gig in the Park takes place next Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

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