Urgent call to secure Aberdeenshire’s village halls

19/09/2023

IN AN era marked by evolving community dynamics and changing societal needs, village and community halls across Aberdeenshire have developed into central hubs for an ever-growing variety of activities. In addition to the traditional group meetings, toddler groups and pantomimes, these spaces now foster the growth of small enterprises, facilitate community engagement, and house community businesses, such as post offices, cafes, and libraries. 

However, the threat to their continued success lies in the balance as the addition of activities and changes in purpose bring new risks that may invalidate their insurance coverage. 

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Ansvar, the expert insurers for the charity and not-for-profit sectors, are urging centre committees to verify the adequacy of their existing protective coverage to guarantee the protection of these venues for future use.

There are approximately 3,000 centres[1] across Scotland that host thousands of events and celebrations every year. With some of these halls and centres being built before World War I or to commemorate it, many have been vital community spaces for over 100 years. The varying usage agreements and quality of provisions and building materials differ considerably across the country. As such, they can face various risks, from accidental damage and fire hazards to potential liability claims.

Adam Tier, Head of Underwriting at Ansvar, emphasises the importance: 

“Village and community halls are no longer limited to being mere event venues; they have seamlessly woven themselves into the fabric of everyday life. From hosting yoga classes and farmers’ markets to providing space for personal trainers, art workshops and post offices, these halls have become the lifeblood of community interaction. This evolution has created vibrant ecosystems where entrepreneurs can thrive, neighbours can connect, and shared resources can flourish.

“Indeed, by acting as vaccination centres during the Covid-19 pandemic and, due to the current cost of living crisis, as places families can go to receive emergency food provision, their importance to a community has been reaffirmed. The transformation of village and community halls into multi-purpose hubs is a heartwarming reflection of communities adapting to changing times. However, this also calls for a reassessment of the protective measures in place.”

Due to recent inflationary pressures and the rapid increase in the cost of materials, a significant number of village halls and community centres will now be underinsured. Adam Tier added: 

“Being underinsured can have devastating consequences in the event of a large loss or significant damage to these buildings, where policyholders are forced to find the shortfall to reinstate the property. These delays in getting back up and running, or in severe cases back open at all, can leave a big hole in the local community. Therefore, it is imperative that a buildings valuation is regularly updated and contents and other items are frequently inventoried.

“We understand the immense value community halls hold and want to ensure they are protected. Without adequate coverage, these community spaces and the clubs and local businesses they support can face significant financial strain or even closure. Working with a specialist insurer will ensure that the essence of what makes these community spaces thrive is preserved. They will understand the unique challenges community-driven initiatives face and provide tailored coverage to address those needs, ensuring peace of mind for community organisers and members.”

[1] https://www.gov.scot/publications/land-reform-review-group-final-report-land-scotland-common-good/pages/42/

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