Paull residents get set for village hall grand opening
IT'S not that different from many other small East Yorkshire villages.
Shops and services have slipped away, leaving residents with their peaceful rural setting and their community loyalty.
In Paull, that indomitable spirit was all they needed to create a multi-purpose facility that brings new meaning to the words "village hall".
The 600 or so residents are now on the brink of officially unveiling their new £500,000 building. The cutting edge facility is the product of three years' solid graft by the people. Impressively, the tight-knit community were initially able to raise £40,000 themselves before securing £464,495 from the Big Lottery Reaching Communities Fund.
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The result is a modern, multi-purpose building with air-source heat pumps, super- efficient heating and ventilation systems and super-fast broadband that can be used by the whole community.
Outside organisations are already clamouring to know if they will be able to use the hall.
But as the hall's management committee chairman Paul Cross explains, it's really been all about the children of the village.
He said: "When I was first approached about a new village hall, I thought there would be no point building one for my generation. Ours was the old hall and it had gone. The new one is all about the children."
As well as a facility where children can, for example, play online computer games against other young people from other areas, the new hall will be a hub for the village. Over the years, Paull has lost many of its basic facilities, such as local shops, the post office and medical services.
One suggestion is to start using the hall as a collection point for goods delivered to the village from, for instance, supermarkets.
It will be a community building to accommodate social, educational, health and other activities for a wide range of users.
On a basic level, it will also sell tea, coffee, milk and newspapers on Saturday and Sunday mornings.
With the village now relishing the prospect of its new facility, it is easy to forget that, to begin with, there were heated discussions about whether it should be built at all.
The old hall had a place in people's hearts.
It had started life as a former Army cook house bought by a collection of villagers for ten shillings each in 1939.
A matter of weeks after its purchase, war broke out and the shed was back being used as a cook house for soldiers stationed at Fort Paull.
In 1943, a barrage balloon set fire to Paull school and, for a time, lessons had to be held in the old village hall/cook house.
Perhaps, because of the old building's colourful history, there was some initial opposition to demolishing it.
Mr Cross said: "In 2009, the parish council asked people whether the village hall should be knocked down and 86 per cent said, 'No way, we have to keep the hall'."
But, after then, the retired accountant, whose wife Irene has family connections with Paull that go back 400 years, was asked to lead a project looking at the hall's future.
Public meetings were held in 2010 and a decision was taken to tap into the Lottery's Building Communities fund, which is targeted at deprived communities.
Mr Cross said: "We were told we would need to raise about 11 per cent, in the end we got to about £40,000."
The other lesson was that the Big Lottery Fund was less interested in the precise nature of the construction and more keen to find out which elements of the community would use the hall, and for what.
The village consultation threw up some surprising results. As a result, Paull's hall will have super-fast Broadband provided by KC and the much-requested facility for local youngsters to play online computer games.
The design also features a power-generating wind turbine and other energy-efficiency measures.
Other users from outside the village are not being ruled out but Paull has waited more than 70 years for a purpose-built village hall, so locals are keen to make sure they get first call on the new building.
Mr Cross said: "There are a lot of possibilities and we're looking at them all. But the first thing it will be is a community facility."
Paying tribute to the villagers who have stood, shoulder-to- shoulder, Mr Cross said: "The village of Paull is a 'deprived community' as defined by the Government and the community realised that to maintain a standard for the village and its community, they would need to help themselves.
"Once they became committed to building a new village hall, they have remained entirely focused raising £72,000 over the past three years towards the project.
"I have been extremely proud and humbled to lead such a dedicated team supported by a community not frightened by the effort required to achieve such an objective."