Pavilion costs rocket

THE estimated price of a new sports pavilion for Downend has skyrocketed, with the project now expected to cost at least £1.25 million.

Downend & Bromley Heath Parish Council is planning to ask residents for their views on taking out a loan to help pay for the project.

But the consultation cannot take place until the parish council knows whether its bid for £250,000 in funding from the Football Foundation – the charity that awards Premier League, FA and Government funding to grassroots football facilities – has succeeded.

The prospect of borrowing £400,000, or possibly more, to help fund the new building on the King George V playing fields led to a heated debate at an extraordinary meeting of the parish council in March.

The parish council first unveiled detailed plans for a new pavilion to replace the existing run-down building in late 2020. At the time the cost was estimated at £600,000 to £700,000.

A planning application followed in March 2021, but it took a year for permission to be granted by South Gloucestershire Council.

The parish council first increased precept payments, collected as part of residents’ council tax bills, when it took over responsibility for sports provision in 2016.

After deciding a new pavilion was needed in 2017, it has built up almost £540,000 in reserves towards the project.

A further £112,000 will come via South Gloucestershire Council, from contributions made by developers.

If the Football Foundation awards the £250,000 asked for the total would stand at just over £900,000.

But the cheapest quote received for the modular building and associated works is £1.25m, leaving a shortfall of around £350,000.

A report on the scheme put the difference down to two main factors.

The first is a dramatic increase in materials and construction costs – blamed on a combination of “post-Brexit adjustments”, the pandemic and inflation – since the planning application was made.

The second is “significant landscaping works” required to comply with planning permission for the site, which will include a new car park, electric vehicle charging points, scooter and bike parking and sports equipment storage.

Parish councillor Ben Burton, who is leading the project as chair of the sports pitches working group, told the annual parish meeting on March 16: “There’s been a bit of price increase but a good proportion of that is investment in improvement of the park for the wider good.”

The new pavilion includes changing facilities that meet Sport England requirements for accessibility and child safeguarding, plus meeting rooms, office space and a recreational area that could be used by the whole community.

Cllr Burton, who also serves on South Gloucestershire Council’s cabinet and is a coach with Downend Saints, the ‘lead club’ set to help run the pavilion and pitches, said loan repayments would not add to the amount currently charged in the precept, which is £65.74 for Band D homes this year.

He said taking a loan would enable the project to get going, adding: “If we try to save up another £500,000 the costs are going to keep going up.”

A resident at the assembly said: “If we didn’t do this project, the precept would be much lower.”

Cllr Burton said the consultation would probably include more than one option, rather than one simple yes or no answer on taking out a loan.

Ten days earlier there was heated debate at an extraordinary parish meeting, held to agree a public consultation over the loan and choose lowest bidder Derbybeech Ltd as the preferred contractor.

Mary Lewis, the chair of the Friends of King George V and Badminton Road Playing Fields, said she was “annoyed” that after years of planning the project might not be signed off.

She said: “Please, please don’t delay the project now that it’s got to this stage.”

But former parish councillor Martyn Poole said: “All of the council tax payers in Downend & Bromley Heath are going to be left with a debt, for the first time ever, and they really get very little say in it.”

Parish councillor Matt Pitts said: “Each household will be paying £340 to £350 each for a pavilion which 95% of the population isn’t going to use. I feel uncomfortable committing the next seven or eight parish councils to a debt over 25 years, at 5% interest.”

Fellow councillor Phil Abbott said: “Over 60% of the parish supported the build.

“The pavilion as it is isn’t fit for purpose – it’s got to go.”