Saffron Walden MP opens Hempstead’s new ‘amphitheatre’

On the steps of the new patio, from left, Sir Alan Haslehurst MP, Diana Frost, Sally Rowden, Zoe Hoa

On the steps of the new patio, from left, Sir Alan Haslehurst MP, Diana Frost, Sally Rowden, Zoe Hoar, Richard Crane. Back: Mark Halls, John Sladen, Sean McCarthy. - Credit: Archant

The long-running programme of improvements to Hempstead Village Hall has taken another step forward with the completion of a smart new patio area, officially opened on Saturday by Saffron Walden MP Sir Alan Haselhurst, who described it as “more like an amphitheatre”.

A hazardous muddy bank at the bottom of the Glebe has been transformed into an extended terrace and steps, thanks to £12,500 in donations from community groups and local funding bodies.

The new “alfresco extension” at the back of the hall, which involved shifting 120 tonnes of soil, will give the facility extra appeal as a venue for social events, private parties and formal occasions like wedding receptions. In good weather the banked steps will provide informal seating for dozens of people without the need for extra chairs.

Richard Crane, Village Hall Trustee who headed the project, said: “The idea of a patio has been mooted a number of times over the years and only really firmed up during the Queen’s Jubilee celebrations on the Glebe where a number of residents suggested how nice it would be to walk down some steps onto a patio rather than slide down a grass bank.

“We gave ourselves a year to raise the funds – a challenging task in the current climate – but it began to look achievable after we asked local architect Ian Abrams to come up with a design and explored the Jubilee Fund set up by Uttlesford District Council to support community and voluntary groups.

“From here we went out to tender and selected the renowned local builder MJ Halls to carry out the work. We have finished on budget and ahead of schedule.”

Speaking at the ribbon-cutting ceremony attended by at least 50 villagers, Sir Alan hailed it as “a brilliant design, more like an amphitheatre than a patio”.

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“This hall has become a tremendous asset to the village,” he added.

The roll call of donors includes:

• UDC Jubilee Fund grant £3,000

• Hempstead and District Gardeners’ Club £3,000

• Stansted Airport Community Trust £2,000

• Essex Community Foundation £720 (comprising £420 from the Acorn Fund and the £300 from the Essex Rural Fund).

• Hempstead Dramatic Society £300

• Hempstead Parish Council £666.66

• The final shortfall of £2,803.34 was covered by an award from UDC Community Project Grant Scheme.