THE community of Hale has celebrated the opening of a long awaited new extension at the village hall.

To mark the project coming to fruition a special celebration was held last Friday.

The chairman of Hale Village Hall, Jacqui Hartas, said: “It is just great. After two years of hard work it is really nice to see the fruits of it.”

The trustees have been trying since 2016 to raise the money to build an extension and with funding from New Forest District Council (NFDC) and Hampshire County Council (HCC) the project was finally able to go ahead.

Jacqui says the trustees were on the verge of giving up after one of their funding applications fell through but the district council “came to the rescue”.

The hall committee had initially applied to NFDC for a grant of £5,000 but after the hall trustees outlined the situation a grant of £14,000 was awarded instead.

HCC awarded £7,500 from its former Community Captial Buildings Fund. Hale Parish Council gave a grant of £1,000 with a further £4,000 from the Garfield Weston Foundation and £1,000 from Councillor Edward Heron’s councillor grants.

Jacqui said: “The new extension is going to mean we are going to get far more use out of the downstairs room which has become available unfortunately after our pre-school had to close in the summer. It means we can try to attract more hirers. We are hoping to get things like pilates and wellbeing groups, whatever the village is interested in. There are lots of ideas.”

It is also hoped that the hall will house a book borrowing facility.

“It is the only totally open amenity in the centre of the village. It is the hub where everybody meets,” added Jacqui. “We all come here and love our village hall.”

The new facilities are already being used and other groups have expressed an interest in using it.

NFDC portfolio holder for community affairs, Councillor Diane Andrews said: “I’m really pleased and delighted we were able to make a difference.”

HCC executive member for recreation and heritage, Councillor Seán Woodward, added: “The county council’s financial support has helped the village hall increase its capacity, make best use of its space, and be as economically efficient as possible. These changes will see the village hall thrive for many years to come.”

The trustees have thanked everyone who has supported the project.