Moves to keep vacant school for community

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A campaign to keep Thetford’s Charles Burrell School for community use received wide support at a public meeting.

The school will be empty once Thetford Academy moves out at the end of term but Thetford Town and Norfolk County Councils pledged to work together to keep its facilities, which include a hall and swimming pool, available.

At the end of Monday’s meeting, town mayor Stuart Wright said: “We’ll take it forward as a town council, but we can’t do it alone — we need your support.”

That support looked promising, with sports and community groups expressing an interest, including Thetford Athletics Club and the Scouts. Many feared it would be damaged if left empty, .

Norfolk County Council’s cabinet member for finance and corporate resources Steve Morphew said: “Unless this sort of speculative proposal has this sort of support behind it, it just fizzles away.”

He added: “I come with an open mind, a willingness to cooperate and a sympathy with the community to retain the facilities. What I don’t come with is a shed load of money.”

But he said it would cost £58,000 a year if kept empty.

Ward town and district councillor Sylvia Armes said local councillors had ask the county about the school being used for the community two years ago.

David Russell, of the county’s property services, said the school was used as a pilot in a project to fund more community facilities through Moving Thetford Forward, but when funding was lost, the plan had to be aborted.

Robert Kybird, vice chairman of Breckland Council, warned sports bodies that the district is contractually bound not to fund those available at Thetford’s Sports Centre. That would not affect athletics.

Stephen Hunt, 3rd Thetford Scout Group leader, said: “Rarely a week goes by when I do not get a call from this area asking for a child to join scouting. Very few have taken up places due to travel problems.”

After the meeting he said “I’m sure we could have a scout group operating here in September.”