A MAJOR project to upgrade a key community space in Newent finally broke ground after years of planning last week.

The start of work on the long awaited Community Pavilion at the town’s Watery Lane Recreation Ground was celebrated by trustees and locals at a ‘ground breaking’ ceremony on Monday, May 8.

Plans for the pavilion were first discussed more than five years ago, but the pandemic, a planning “hitch” and rising building costs have all contributed to its delay.

The project is being led by the Newent Recreation Ground Trust, of which Newent Town Council is the sole trustee.

It is being funded largely by Section 106 monies contributed by the firms behind local developments for community facilities.

With the build having been delayed by the pandemic, by the time the trust were in a position to begin, building costs had risen to more than £300,000 - with only £250,000 available.

But, determined to make it happen, local businesses, residents, community groups and the town council have worked together to raise the extra funds needed.

Trustees say they are “delighted” that work can now get started after contracts with local builders Evergreen Developments were signed last week.

Councillors and members of the public donned hard hats and high vis jackets to take some celebratory photographs at last Monday’s ground breaking ceremony. Construction of the pavilion is now officially underway.

Once completed, it is hoped it will offer “a modern, accessible space to complement the sports and leisure facilities on the Recreation Ground”.

It will feature a main room with seating for up to 40 people, a “well-equipped, modern” kitchen, and accessible male, female and disabled toilets.

The space will be available to hire at “reasonable rates” for community groups and individuals.

At the ceremony, Newent Mayor Cllr Christine Howley said in a speech that for many years the field had been no more than just that - a field.

Created in 1897 for Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee, facilities were added over the years to make it more accessible including a play area, rugby pitches, toilets and changing area.

Today it is used as the home of Newent RFC, seniors and juniors, and by runners, dog walkers, children and families.

Newent RFC Secretary Georgina Gardner says the pavilion will allow the club’s juniors to take shelter from the weather and host visiting teams, which they haven’t been able to do in recent years.

The trust says it will make a “great addition” to community facilities in the town.

A spokesperson said construction should be complete by the autumn. They explained: “We apologise in advance for any inconvenience caused during the works. From Tuesday May 9 it will not be possible to park on the rec car park until works are complete. Access to the Rec from Watery Lane will be via the pedestrian gate in the corner.

They added: “Although we all know the start of construction work is rarely the end of challenges on a project, we do feel it’s a major milestone and cause for some celebration.”