The community centre in Filton was built after a successful spell of fundraising in 1967, and quickly built a large following of members. Numbers were as high as 2500 at one point, a significant proportion of the local residents. Over time fewer visitors saw the benefit of joining and contributing to the running of the centre, leading us to a point now where few of our regular users are members. Despite thousands of people a week coming through the doors we now have less than a hundred registered members. We have many popular groups and activities, some of which have been running since the centre was opened, but most can't support price rises in line with inflation. This has left us with a growing number of groups paying historical rates which are needing to be more and more subsidised by higher and higher outside hire rates. This is not a situation that can go on indefinitely without us getting help or making changes. At the same time running costs for many essentials have spiralled beyond normal inflation, particularly for energy and utilities, of which we consume a significant amount.
The situation culminated last year when some drastic policy changes were implemented to save funds for essential maintenance. Non-essential outgoings were halted where possible, utility prices negotiated and other outgoings carefully managed. This allowed us to save up sufficient funds to repair the leaking flat roof that had been causing problems for over 5 years. The legacy of damage left by long term water ingress has been slowly tackled with redecorating efforts where possible, but now we have the most serious artefact; the suspended ceilings. Investigating the damage to these also revealed a distinct lack of building insulation, leaving us with a significant outlay for a large job approaching £20,000 for the whole building, before extra costs are accounted for such as skips and waste disposal. Without outside assistance we will probably never be able to tackle a job this expensive. The advantage is we are can improve the problems like lack of insulation to make lasting improvements to this community space that could serve to protect it from being marginalised in the future. Even after large jobs like this are completed there is still much to do; the accesibilty needs to be modernised, along with the aged toilets.
As energy costs are our biggest expenditures we are looking to minimise our outgoings as much as we can with efficiency improvements to the building and utilising available technology where possible. We have secured some funding to help install a solar PV system to generate electric on our vast main hall roof, and are looking to augment this with the improved insulation and general efficiency improvements to the building as well as a battery storage system to extend the benefit of the solar panels. Potential improvements to the gas fired heating are being investigated as well. There is a momentum building up now to the improvements taking place here; much has changed over the last year and we are hoping to maintain this to push us into a position of total self-sustainability, perhaps even by next year. The aim is to protect the future of this building against rising costs, particularly energy costs, to continue to provide this venue that is central to many members of the community, allowing us to expand the reach by ultimately sharing the reduced cost to the benefit of the local community.