A PIONEERING study into the future of village halls in the North-East is setting the standard as a national exemplar.

The study by the Tees Valley Village Halls Network was launched at a meeting of village hall representatives at The Wilson Centre at Long Newton, near Stockton.

Network officials have travelled more than 3,000 miles, visiting nearly 40 village halls across the Tees Valley, to compile the report.

It is thought to be the most comprehensive study into the viability of village halls ever undertaken in the region, analysing how they are managed, how well they serve their communities, and what lessons need to be learned.

Rita Lawson, chief executive of the Tees Valley Rural Community Council, said the report had “created a lot of interest across the country and was being watched closely”.

“It is seen as an extremely significant piece of work,” she told the meeting.

The report has shown a lot of variations between village halls, with many thriving as community hubs, but it is estimated that about ten per cent are facing an uncertain future.

Hugh Jackson, chairman of the Tees Valley Village Halls Network, said the study would now be followed by a programme of training workshops aimed at supporting village halls through the sharing of knowledge and good practice.

He said: “The response to the study has been fantastic. It is now a question of building on the foundations laid by the study. The central message is ‘Swap and share’ and that is the challenge going forward to make the most of these important community hubs.”

Brian Wake, treasurer of the Network, added: “It has been a long journey, and the amount of time spent in compiling the report is incalculable. However, I think we can be proud of the end result and we can now plan ahead on a much more informed basis.”