Residents of Holy Island are at long last going to get a new village hall after a Big Lottery Fund grant of £500,000 was secured.
Community groups have had nowhere suitable to meet since the original village hall was closed for safety reasons in 2005 and then demolished in 2007.
David O’Connor, a village hall trustee, said: “We are understandably delighted and the funding will enable us to move forward with the rebuild, reinstate the village hall as the focal point of island community life and a place where all can gather under one roof - an integral part of our island community life.
“The opportunity to create a new village hall at the heart of island life is, quite literally, life-changing for Holy Island residents.
“Because the island is tidal, all off island journeys require detailed planning. We cannot jump on a bus and go off to the cinema, the health centre, or go shopping or to socialise on the mainland.
“For example, a visit to the health centre in Belford involves a round trip 26 miles carefully planned and co-ordinated with the practice and all depending on car ownership or a helpful neighbour with transport.
“With a new village hall we can provide a place to fulfil the needs of the village on-island in addition to improving the opportunities for schools, colleges, pilgrims and others including education, recreation and sporting activities.”
Prior to its closure, the old hall was used by the Mothers Union, knitting circle, keep fit clubs, for billiards, bowls, boxing, dances, art and photography.
Most of these are expected to re-start when the new centre is built, along with new activities like a book exchange, health clinics, youth club, choral society, amateur dramatics, older people’s club, badminton, indoor football, darts and dominos.
Local organisations including the parish council, Fishermen’s Society, Holy Island Development Forum and Development Trust, primary school, church and Women’s Institute will also use the hall.
In addition, the island attracts thousands of tourists and pilgrims each year and the hall will provide a base for these groups which contribute to the local economy.
A further £280,000 has been raised by the Holy Island Village Hall Restoration Fund.
The grant comes from the Big Lottery Fund’s Reaching Communities programme which helps people and communities most in need.
Louise Snelders of the Big Lottery Fund said: “Holy Island is a magical place. It’s wonderful to be able to fund this much-needed village hall to allow the small community, who are cut-off from the mainland for most of the time, access to necessary services and social activities.”