Village could soon take over running of its hall

Whauphill Community Council is close to agreeing terms with Dumfries and Galloway Council to take over the running of its village hall – the only facility in the community.

The hall was originally due to shut for good on July 31, then the deadline was extended to next Saturday (August 31), but as negotiations are still ongoing between the local authority and the community council, the deadline has been extended again to the end of September to allow village representatives more time to come up with a takeover plan.

Whauphill Community Council chairperson Alison Maxwell told The Galloway Gazette: “We would hope to have the building transferred to us around October 1.

“We would then run it on a full cost-lease basis although management and maintenance issues are still to be discussed. The community council plans to run the hall itself on a trial basis for a year to see how we get on.

“We will have a further meeting with council officials next month to discuss the management agreement in detail.”

A council spokesman said this week: “Our council’s community and customer services officers are due to meet with the community association in early September to discuss the future of Whauphill hall. An extension has been granted for the hall to remain open for bookings until September 30, 2013.”

The hall is used weekly for exercise, whist classes and the Barwhanny Fellowship, and monthly for a com­munity service and a local councillors’ surgeries.

It comes into its own as a community facility at Christmas time with parties held there for both children and pensioners.

It also served as an emergency centre for residents 
during the severe snow-storms that hit the area in mid-March.

The hall, which is the only community facility in the village, was due to be closed by the council as part of its cost-cutting plans to save £200,000 a year by closing council-owned facilities across the 
region. The saving to the council would be £3258 annually and the hall users’ groups were facing being moved into either Sorbie school or Kirkinner hall, a round trip of at least eight miles.

But after outrage in the South Machars village about the council’s lack of consultation with residents about the plans, a crisis meeting was held in the hall at the beginning of July.

At the meeting, the council’s principal officer for facilities, Karen Brownlee, agreed to keep the hall open until August 31 to allow the Whauphill Community Council time to discuss taking over the hall itself. She also agreed to forward vital information about the costs involved in running the hall to the community council.

Those attending the meeting pointed out that the alternative venues, such as Kirkinner hall, were already well used by their own community groups, particularly in the evenings.