Banks Group cooks up a new kitchen for Firbank Church Hall

January 13, 2014 | Armistead News

A popular South Lakeland church hall is cooking up a warmer welcome for its users after securing a four-figure grant from a renewable energy firm to upgrade its kitchen and toilet facilities.

The management committee at Firbank Church Hall, near Sedbergh, had been looking to make much-needed improvements to the two rooms, but didn’t have the resources required to fund the work.

But now, after receiving a £4,400 grant from Banks Renewables, via its Banks Community Fund, a storeroom has been integrated into the church hall kitchen to provide far more room for people using it.

The adjoining toilet has also been upgraded, and now provides full access for any disabled hall users, and a new water heater which will serve both rooms’ hot water requirements is set to be installed.

Local builder Alan Steadman was awarded the contract for the work, and used other local tradesmen for the refurbishment.

Run by a 20-strong group of local volunteers, Firbank Church Hall is regularly used by a number of different community-based organisations for functions ranging from domino drives, bingo and community barbecues to PCT and WI meetings.

The hall is also available for hire for private functions, and Brian Woof, chairman of the Firbank Church Hall management committee, hopes the improvements that have been made will encourage even more local people to make use of it.

He says: “While it was clean and perfectly adequate, the toilet had clearly been in need of improvement for some time, to bring it up to modern standards, and it made sense to look to improve our kitchen facilities at the same time.

“The space that has been added to the kitchen has made a real difference to how comfortable and easy it is for our users to utilise the facilities, and the whole project has helped to improve the environment within the hall even further.

“The capital required for this job was way beyond our resources, and the generous funding that Banks Renewables has provided has enabled us to get things done, rather than continuing to make the best of what we’d got, so we’re extremely grateful for their support.”

Banks Renewables is the company behind the Armistead wind farm that has been built on land near to Old Hutton, and it is also looking to develop the proposed Killington scheme, which would be situated on land between the A684 Sedbergh Road and Junction 37 of the M6.

In addition to the Banks Community Fund, the Armistead Wind Farm Community Fund will provide up to £307,500 of community funding from the revenue of the Armistead Wind Farm over its 25-year lifespan to help make a positive, long-term difference to local voluntary groups, environmental projects and community facilities in the area.

The allocation of the Fund’s first grants was recently agreed at a meeting of representatives from the six nearest parish councils, and this funding committee is now encouraging further applications from local projects that can be considered in the future.

Mark Dowdall, environment and community director at the Banks Group, adds: “Venues such as Firbank Church Hall play a central role in their communities, and provide an invaluable hub around which a great deal of activity is based.

“We’re very pleased to be able to fund the improvements the management committee wanted to make to the hall, and especially to see that contracts were awarded to local businesses as part of the project too.”

Projects, community groups, or voluntary organisations in the vicinity of Banks’ Armistead Wind Farm that are looking for funding should contact James Eaglesham at the Banks Community Fund on 0191 378 6342.

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