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Community Buildings Coronavirus (COVID-19) Update - 03 July 2020

3rd July 2020

This article contains information for village halls and community buildings on: preparing for re-opening, indoor sport, and use by schools and holiday/after school clubs. It includes links to updated ACRE information, following recent Government guidance issued. Please also read the previous 2, 11 and 16 June Updates.

Information surrounding Coronavirus and COVID-19 may change; ACTion with Communities in Cumbria (ACT) recommends that everyone should follow the guidance issued by Public Health England and the NHS and keep abreast of the ever-changing situation.

Re-opening village halls and community centres:

Government has confirmed that from 4th July community centres, village halls and other multi-use community facilities will be allowed to re-open if they can so safely.

We’ve been pleased to hear from village hall committees how they’ve appreciated the ACRE Information Sheet and that it has helped them start to prepare for possible re-opening. Following Government guidance issued on 30 June, the information sheet has now been updated and is available (with appendices as Word documents) below:

Please note, the ACRE information sheet and appendices have all been updated in line with Government guidance. Vist the ACT Coronavirus page to access the latest Update.

Village and Community Halls are multi–purpose premises so the ACRE information sheet is based on interpretation, as far as possible, of Government guidance published for Community Facilities and, where relevant, that for reopening of: Playgrounds; Outdoor recreation areas; bars and cafes; indoor markets; and places of worship. However, it is not possible to go into the detail of all the relevant Government guidance and further links are given in the document.

The information sheet may be updated in accordance with the changes made to the Public Health Regulations, after 4th July, and any subsequent Government guidance.

Numbers in a gathering

To clarify re numbers in a gathering; where safety can be maintained and the premise is COVID-19 Secure, as set out in Government’s guidance, gatherings of more than 30 people are permissible. However, during activities, individuals should not closely interact with anyone outside of the group they are attending the venue with, which is a group no larger than two households or six people if outdoors.

Indoor Sports

There had been some question as to whether more gentle forms of exercise, such as yoga and Pilates, might be allowed. It is now clear that yoga and Pilates are not allowable in community centres and village halls as there may be increased risk of aerosol transmission by doing such activities indoors. Further detail in the ACRE Information Sheet and Government guidance on phased return of sport and recreation

Holiday / After School Clubs

Government has published new guidance for organisations or individuals who provide community activities, tuition, holiday clubs or after-school clubs for children, as well as their staff and volunteers, which acknowledges that these are often held in village and church halls:

School use of charitable halls

The Charity Commission’s view was sought on whether village hall charities can allow their property to be used to provide additional space for schools (mainly primary schools) to help them meet the social distancing requirements. The Commission’s response (below) indicates this can be permitted, depending on the circumstances, but that trustees should first consult local community groups which normally use the premises:

“The Commission’s view is that this will depend primarily on two things:

  1. The charity’s purposes as set out in their governing document i.e. whether use of the property in this way can be said to directly further the charity’s objects; or
  2. Whether the charity’s property would be otherwise be unused during this time and therefore letting out the property for income will be turning the property to account.

The trustees will therefore need to carefully consider the purposes of their charity. Village hall charities tend to have a purpose about the provision of facilities for recreation and other leisure-time occupation in the interests of social welfare with the object of improving the conditions of life of the beneficiaries. It is the provision of those recreational facilities (where they are provided in the interests of social welfare) that furthers the charity’s purpose. The trustees’ focus should therefore be on furthering the charity’s purpose through the provision of recreational facilities.

Where a village hall property, or a part of a village hall property, is vacant, then it may be in the charity’s best interest to allow it to be used as “overspill” space for a local school (so turning the property to account).

To help make a proper decision, the trustees should carefully consider the Commission’s’s decision making guidance. The trustees would need to make a proper decision based on the circumstances of the charity and its property. It may be that, for example, the premises cannot be re-opened (even when lockdown restrictions permits opening) for recreation because of the nature of the premises or the area within which it is located or because all previous use cannot resume even with the relaxation of social distancing (e.g. those activities are too crowded or involve people still regarded as at high risk).

The trustees would need to consider the terms of any use by a local school (so that it is limited to short term use) and keep this under review as the need for the recreational facilities changes.

When making any decision the trustees should consult with any interested parties and the focus of this would need to be around establishing the need for the village hall to provide recreational facilities and so whether it should be reopened for that purpose.

Therefore, in summary, the trustees need to prioritise furthering the charity’s purpose through the provision of a recreational facility. Where the property (or part of it) may be unused or vacant, then they can consider turning that property to account (in the short term) but this needs to be a proper decision taking into account the circumstances of the charity.”

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If you are involved in running a village hall or community building in Cumbria, and would like to receive information from ACT, please join our mailing list by becoming an ACT Supporter (it’s free!) and we’ll keep you updated.

ACT Community Buildings Events

Following the success of our first online Community Buildings Event last Saturday, which attracted nearly 100 participants, we’re planning another one. The event will then be followed by a series of smaller online discussion groups to provide an opportunity for discussion and sharing of experience:

Community Buildings Event (presentation with Q&A)

  • Sat 1st August 10am – 11.30am

Follow up discussion groups (max. 15 people, 1 per hall)

  • Tues 4th August 7pm – 8pm
  • Wed 5th August 10am – 11am
  • Thurs 6th August 7 – 8pm

Please visit the ACRE website (Action with Communities in Rural England) for further information and please Contact Us at ACT if you have any questions or issues you would like to discuss for your hall.

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