Council backs Orange hall upgrade – but conditions apply

LARNE Council has agreed in principle to provide a grant of up to £50,000 to help refurbish and extend Cairncastle Orange Hall.

The project is being spearheaded by Cairncastle Ulster Scots Group, who want to expand the hall to cater for up to 150 people – more than double its current capacity.

It is hoped that improved facilities will enable new classes and events to be held at the hall and help increase the membership of existing classes. The group also plans to extend the property’s kitchen facilities, increase toilet provision and add a toilet suitable for use by the disabled.

The overall cost is estimated at £149,255, with 75 per cent of funding potentially being contributed by the North East Partnership’s (NEP) Rural Development Programme, leaving a shortfall of £48,155, which the group has asked the local authority to make up.

And the council has agreed to assist the Ulster Scots group – provided it is able to meet a number of conditions. These include being able to show that 75 per cent of the total funding is in place before the council releases its funding for the project.

The group is also required to make a presentation to councillors outlining the details of the project, and must be able to satisfy the council’s Section 75 equality obligations.

According to council, the Ulster Scots Committee has already indicted that the hall would be open to all denominations for use.

At the latest meeting of the Development Committee in Smiley Buildings, elected members were told that the group had so far only been able to provide “anecdotal evidence” of its cross-community work, and for that reason it had been advised by the council’s chief executive to apply for funding under the “single identity banner”.

Another criterion is that a feasibility study will be carried out on the project prior to funding being released, to demonstrate that there will no displacement of other council-funded projects for hall facilities or churches in the Cairncastle area.

In addition, the council has also said it will wait until the Rates Committee makes its deliberations on capital funding, to see if it can include the £50,000 in its capital loan fund.

The Ulster Scots group informed council that it has not had time to make applications to any other sources of funding, and that it was in the process of setting itself up as a limited company under the name Cairncastle Ulster Scots Group Ltd, in the hope of gaining registered charitable status by January.