OFFER: Secretary of Cockfield Workingmen’s Club, Cecil Alderson, who made the offer
OFFER: Secretary of Cockfield Workingmen’s Club, Cecil Alderson, who made the offer

TALKS about extending a village sports pavilion took a dramatic turn last week following the “gift” of a much larger building instead, along with land worth an estimated £1million.

Cockfield Parish Councillors had invited residents to its latest meeting at the Pauline Charlton Sports Pavilion to discuss whether a planned extension to the venue should be made larger to allow more activities.

However, despite only one resident turning up, talks went on for almost an hour after Cecil Alderson, secretary of the Workingmen’s Club, told members he wanted to see the club’s concert hall given for “the good of the village”.

Mr Alderson, a lifelong resident of the village, said he had been against selling off the old community centre a decade ago. He said it appeared the lastest plans were merely serving to try to replace it.

Mr Alderson said there was no point in building a larger extension when there was already a suitable one in the village at the club.

Mr Alderson said the club, which is owned by the members, were prepared to “gift” both the concert hall and the land behind it to the village on the proviso that they could never be sold. He added the club had been approached by several developers over the past few years who wished to purchase the club and the land. He said he knew these developers wanted to tear down the club and build on the land, which the meeting was told was worth about £1million.

Mr Alderson told councillors: “It is one thing the club asks is that it needs to be set in stone that it can’t be sold. The hall and the land were originally given for the benefit of villagers and this is what we still want. There is a great facility here and it just needs using.”

Members were taken aback at first and asked several times to be clear. Some were worried if the council agreed to take the building on they would end up in the same position they had been with the old community centre, which had been too expensive to renovate.

Chairwoman Cllr Brenda Singleton said the charity commission had stated the money from the sale of the old community centre had to be spent on the new one.

Cllr Andrew Whelan questioned whether it would be possible to speak to the charity commission to see if the money could be used for the concert hall. He added: “We could have the best of both worlds and keep some money for a smaller extension here and use the rest to bring the concert hall up to standard.”

Cllr Jonathan Milroy said: “I remember the meeting and it was said that the club had a massive room that was underused and we do have a space problem here – it would be the best to have the first used properly.”

Cllr Neville Singleton agreed, saying: “We are here for suggestions to get it sorted. There is nothing set in stone yet and although we have plans drawn up they have not been submitted.”

Architect Keith McClure, who has prepared drawings for the council for the extension to the pavilion, said: “The concert hall is certainly a lot bigger than what we are proposing here and there is definitely a lot of space to be able to have a disabled toilet put in and it would be possible to create a disabled access ramp at the side.”

Mr Alderson agreed to speak with members of the club at their annual meeting next month and provide the council with a written proposal so talks can move forward. In the meantime, the council agreed to speak to the charity commission.