A PROJECT to transform a village hall has helped unite a small Oxfordshire community.

For four years, villagers in Sandford-on-Thames have been working to extend and improve their outdated village hall and transform it into a community hub.

The building was opened in 1981 and previously only had one room, which was not enough to accommodate all the groups that wanted to use it.

After a £500,000 fundraising campaign, the revamped hall opened last Saturday with a community party. Colin Colbeck, 77, who moved to the village 15 years ago after his wife Maureen died, said helping out with the project had given him new purpose.

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Mr Colbeck assists with the community cafe and market, which has been run by the Talking Shop volunteer group every Saturday since 2011, and which raised the initial £15,000 funding for the project.

He said: “It’s brought us together. When I came here 15 years ago the village was dead.

“This has brought the village together really, really amazingly.

“I have got to know so many people and I love it.”

Mr Colbeck also helps out as a caretaker at the hall and plans to join table tennis and sit-down exercise classes due to be held there in the future.

Mother-of-two Abi Johnson, 42, who is a member of Talking Shop, agreed the scheme has helped bring the community together.

She said: “It’s been completely transformative.

“There are lots of new groups already forming and booking the hall.

“We want there to be lots of things to bring people into the hall and get together with people they’ve never met before.”

Of the renovation carried out by architect Maya Ellis and builders Basil Wyatt, Ms Johnson said: “It’s brilliant. The architects have done an amazing job – it’s just wonderful.”

Following the initial £15,000 fundraising campaign, grants were secured, including £100,000 from South Oxfordshire District Council, £75,000 from Waste Renewal Environmental (WREN) and £9,000 from Oxfordshire County Council.

The next stage is for Talking Shop to secure a lease on the extension so it can set up a community shop and cafe. Steve Paine, chairman of Sandford-on-Thames Parish Council, said: “We are grateful to all our friends and supporters in the wider community who have helped in realising our project by their goodwill and financial support. At last our huge project is nearing completion.”

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