VILLAGERS in Broad Hinton will make the final payment on a £100,000 loan in May – 17 years early.

The loan from a charity bank to rebuild the community hall was due to run until 2034, but thanks to a massive fundraising effort it will be paid off just eight years after it was taken out.

James Gates, the delighted chairman of the trustees, said: “We got fantastic support from the local community, which was a real boost.

“The committee has worked extremely hard, really hard to put on fundraising events.

“When we took the loan on it was 25 years and we didn’t really know how quickly we could pay it off. We didn’t know if we would increase income.

“But we all knew the sooner that we could pay it off, the better.

“When we first talked about taking out the loan it was a worry - £100,000 is a lot of money. We had business plans, we were pretty sure we could at least keep the payments going.”

The trustees have done it by paying much more than the £647 instalments originally agreed with the help of donations and an intensive programme of fundraising events, organised mainly by the village hall committee, from tennis tournaments to race nights.

The work began back in January 2008 when the committee realised the existing hall, built in 1963, was too dilapidated to repair.

A fundraising campaign to raise £560,000 for a replacement was launched and 16 months later, boosted by a £280 grant from Kennet District Council, grants from others including the Hills Group and the loan, the target was reached.

Building work started and it was officially opened in May 2009.

Lump sums were paid off through the years and by July last year the balance was down to just £24,000.

As well as fundraisers, other moneymaking initiatives, such as fitting solar panels to cut bills and earn a rebate, were taken.

A business plan to increase income from bookings was also devised.

“We focussed on improving the attractiveness of the hall in terms of hiring income,” said James.

“In order to give it a long-term future we had to bring in people from outside the village.”

So they travelled to wedding fairs to advertise the hall as a celebration venue.

Hirers from outside the community pay a premium while locals get a lower rate, said James. Even those paying the top rate get a quality venue all day for £250.

“That’s still great income for us and it gives the hall a future,” he said.

With the loan repayments out of the way, fundraising will continue to ensure the hall is kept in tip-top condition.

It is already proving popular with bookings on most days, including regular coffee mornings, martial arts classes, a kids club, fitness sessions and art classes.

On April 8 it is hosting a pop-up restaurant and in June actors from the Watermill Theatre are staging a performance of Nesting. A special party is planned for July.