A popular community venue in a Darlington village is giving visitors an even warmer welcome thanks to renewed financial backing from a County Durham-headquartered employer.

The Bishopton Village Hall Association is working on long-term refurbishment plans for the wooden-framed building which are designed to improve energy efficiency, enhance the internal environment, upgrade the facilities available to users and ensure its long-term sustainability.

The latest part of the project has seen substantial improvements being made to the building’s front elevation, including the creation of a new lobby area, the reglazing and repainting of its main entrance, the addition of new doors and the installation of an automatic outside light.

A £10,000 grant from Banks Renewables has covered the cost of the project, with local contractor Stockton Windows being commissioned to work on it – and since its completion, the Association has seen an increase in the number of booking enquiries coming in for the hall.

Bishopton Village Hall was originally located in the village of Greatham near Hartlepool, but was bought by the Parish Council in the 1950s before being taken down, transported across and rebuilt on its present Church View site.

It already hosts a wide range of community groups, including fitness and yoga classes, the First Bishopton Brownies, Women’s Institute meetings and the local dog owners’ club, and is also available for hire for private functions.

Bishopton Village Hall Association committee member Norman Melaney says: “As with any building of this type and age, there are structural and maintenance issues that need addressing before they get too out of hand, and we’ve tried to take a long-term view of how best we can achieve this.

“The work that’s just been done has helped to create a much better impression of the building for anyone approaching it, as well as a warmer and more welcoming environment once they’re inside.

“The lobby is no longer cold and draughty, and we’re getting so much positive feedback from users about the difference that it’s made to their enjoyment of the hall.

“Local people are really appreciating that they’ve got a venue on their doorstep that’s suitable for all sorts of different functions, and we’re now seeing booking enquiries increasing as a result.

“There’s a lot more that we want to do, but the generous support we’ve had from Banks means that we’ll be able to get on with this work much more quickly than would otherwise have been possible.”

Substantial community funding has been allocated to support projects in Bishopton over the last few years from the community funds linked to Banks Renewables’ two local wind farms – the Lambs Hill wind farm near Stillington and the Moor House wind farm near Sadberge.”

These include the permanent installation of three roadside speed monitoring devices to warn drivers to watch their speed when coming into the village, the refurbishment of planters and benches on the village green, the installation of a defibrillator and the creation of a new village playground.

Between them, the Moor House and Lambs Hill wind farms generate almost 59,000 MW of green electricity every year, which is enough to meet the annual energy requirements of more than 15,100 homes, and by doing so, displaces almost 20,500 tonnes of carbon dioxide from the electricity supply network per annum.

Lewis Stokes, community relations manager at the Banks Group, adds: “The value of community buildings has been amply demonstrated during the many months that they’ve been unavailable during the pandemic and it’s great to see the likes of Bishopton Village Hall getting busy once again.

“All our wind farm community funds are designed to support local community and environmental and to make a tangible difference to the lives of local people, and the evidence of how this ambition has been realised in Bishopton is clear for all to see.”

Community groups, or voluntary organisations in the vicinity of the Moor House and/or Lambs Hill wind farms which are looking for a grant of up to £3,000 should contact the Banks Community Fund manager at the County Durham Community Foundation on 0191 378 6342 to check if their group or project is eligible.