October 22 2014 Latest news:
Thursday, September 27, 2012
Villagers fighting to save an old school building have been asked to vote in a community referendum where both choices would lead to its demolition.
Ballot papers distributed to households in Mattishall, near Dereham, give residents the options of replacing the Victorian structure with affordable housing or a landscaped open space.
The site is owned by the Barlow Charity, which was set up by the parish council in 2006 and created a village green and affordable housing on the former school playing field.
But plans to turn the building into a £500,000 community hub with a restaurant, pre-school and information centre failed because of lack of funds, and a 2008-09 quote to repair the building came to £100,000.
One woman who attended a 120-strong public meeting on Tuesday evening said: “From my point of view, I don’t believe the costs of £100,000 should be ruled out as a viable option. I would like to see the school saved.
“If there’s £25,000 to see the school demolished, surely that could go to retaining the building and then there’s only £75,000 to find.”
Geoff Dorrie, chair of the village’s memorial hall, called for villagers who wanted to help save the school building to instead volunteer to carry out improvements to the existing facility half a mile away.
He said: “Don’t let emotion and sentiment take precedence tonight. Just look at it rationally and sensibly and look at it long term.”
Parish councillor John Rockliff said it would only be too late to save the school building when a contract to demolish it had been signed, but the parish council had to see a fully worked-out alternative.
He said: “A lot of enthusiasm is not enough. I have had a lot of enthusiasm about this but I have come to the conclusion that a lot of enthusiasm just has not been enough to make this project work.
“The parish council would be willing, I think, to be convinced that it could be done, but we have got to be convinced.”
The deadline to return ballot papers, which also allow residents to make comments, is Monday October 1. They will be counted the next day.