Pavilion loan plan backed in public consultation

PARISH councillors are set to push ahead with plans for a new pavilion on Downend’s King
George V playing fields.

Downend & Bromley Heath Parish Council says a proposal to apply for a £400,000 loan to meet the rising costs of the project was backed by more than nine out of ten residents who responded to a two-month public consultation.

It means that the project is now expected to move ahead, with the intention of having the new modular building in place next year.

The parish council said a total of 529 people responded to the consultation, with 486 people (91.87%) voting in favour of a loan and 43 (8.13%) against.

The consultation was launched at the end of June, with a cut-out form in July’s Voice and an online survey published on the council’s website.

It was set up after the estimated cost of building the pavilion rocketed from £700,000 to at least £1.25 million.

Councillors agreed in principle at a meeting in June to apply for a loan from the Public Works Loan Board, subject to the public consultation.

They were being presented with the results of the consultation at a meeting on September 21, when the submission of a loan application form was also due to be discussed.

The next stage is for the form to be submitted to the Avon Local Councils Association, then the loans board, a process set to take up to four weeks.

Once the parish council hears back from the loan board, it can then advise the Football Foundation, the charity which awards Premier League, FA and Government funding to grassroots football facilities, and has been approached for a grant of £250,000 towards the project.

Once the loan and Football Foundation grant have been confirmed, the council can go ahead with the process of ordering the modular pavilion building, which already has planning permission, with a view to having it in place by the start of the football season next year.

The £650,000 from the loan and grant will be added to almost £540,000 the parish council has built up in its reserves towards the project after increasing the precept when it took over responsibility for the area’s sports pitches in 2016.

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

Councillors insist that the council’s precept – the charge residents pay as part of their council tax bills, which is £65.74 for Band D homes this year – will not go up as a result of the loan.

Ben Burton, chairman of the council’s sports pitches working group, said: “We are pleased to see that residents are supportive of the proposed investment and loan to improve the pavilion at King George V Park.

“The pavilion has the potential to be a community hub that supports the various sports teams but also the wider community.

“We have consistently seen strong support for investing in improving not only the pavilion but also the wider park. We know an investment now, which will not see any rise in the tax that people pay to the Parish Council, will benefit our community for generations to come.

“We would like to take this opportunity of thanking the large numbers of people who responded to the consultation.”

Cllr Burton is a coach with Downend Saints, the ‘lead club’ set to help run the pavilion and pitches. A report on the scheme earlier this year said there were two causes of the costs increase. .

The first is a dramatic rise 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 by South Gloucestershire Council 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.

The new pavilion also 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.

The prospect of taking out a loan led to a heated debate at an extraordinary meeting of the parish council in March, when former parish councillor Martyn Poole said it would leave the parish’s council tax payers “with a debt, for the first time ever”, and Councillor Matt Pitts saying he was “uncomfortable” committing future councils “to a debt over 25 years, at 5% interest”.