Community hub closure after contract dispute

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THE doors of a cafe at the heart of a Thetford community remain closed after a dispute between management and the building’s owners.

Community Spirit, which was based at the Abbey Neighbourhood Centre on the Abbey Estate, shut down in April after it rejected terms laid out by Keystone Development Trust.

Brenda Canham, chairman of Community Spirit, said restrictions forcing the cafe not to open before 10am and to be closed by 2pm were ‘too rigid’.

“The people that work with Community Spirit don’t want rules and regulations all the time because that’s not how a community centre works.

“They [Keystone] want it to be run like a business, not a community project,” she said.

The closure has left residents without a place to congregate, according to Ms Canham.

“It’s right in the middle of the estate and you have got different people from all walks of life coming together. It’s broken down barriers,” she said.

The self-funded youth club run by Community Spirit will now continue at the Bishops School from September and a homework club will carry on at Flagship Housing on York Way.

Carl Clark, Thetford town councillor for the Abbey Estate, said the closure was a ‘massive loss’ and called for a meeting between Keystone and local people.

“There’s nothing on the estate for people now. Instead of going out and interacting, people are staying at home.

“This is a deprived estate and we need something to focus on,” he said.

Neil Stott, Keystone chief executive, insisted that the safety and security of the public was their top priority.

“Like for every group that uses the building, there are certain terms and conditions.

“It’s my responsibility to make sure that the public and staff are safe and secure, and that’s why we have these guidelines.

“We are a very flexible organisation and we don’t try to put barriers in the way of anyone, but there are certain fundamentals,” he said.

Mr Stott added that his ‘door was always open’ to Community Spirit if they wanted to reconsider their options.