March 10 2014 Latest news:
By Rosa McMahon
Monday, December 9, 2013
Controversial demolition work has begun on a historic former school in Mattishall.
Heavy machinery took to the old Victorian building on Dereham Road in a £25,000 flattening project led by the parish council.
The school, which closed in 2006, has divided villagers overs its use – some labelling it an “eyesore”, whilst others urged for its renovation into a community hub for young people.
John Rockliff, a Mattishall parish councillor and trustee of the Barlow Charity which owns the building, said once the six-week project is completed, the plan is to initially to grass it over and make available to the public.
When the Barlow Charity was set-up in 2006 it created a village green and affordable housing on the former school playing field.
Mr Rockliff said there will be a “thinking process” after the work is completed to map-out what the use of the site will be.
“There’s a lot of sentimental attachment people have to the school,” he said. “A lot of people who live in the village went there, so there is feeling towards it.”
He floated ideas such as another children’s play area, or car parking to replace the school site – but said building housing on the site is “not likely”. He added: “We feel on the whole there’s not much public open land in the middle of Mattishall and it would be a pity lose any of it to housing.”
A village referendum last year saw villagers vote to replace the structure with landscaped open space, but some complained both options on the ballot paper involved pulling it down.
Jenny Gibbs, a former dinner lady at the school who has campaigned for the building to be used as a community centre and village green, described the demolition as “heartbreaking”.
She said she put together a business plan using local contractors to transform the building but she had not been listened to after her ideas were described as “unaffordable”.
“I have given up on this village,” she said. “It’s a waste of time trying to do anything. It’s sickening and disgusting.”
Early stages of demolition revealed the roof was in a worse condition than expected and a £4,000 bat survey was commissioned to find a bat thought to be in the building, but no bats were found.
Chimneys and some window brick work will also be saved from the site for a memorial for the future.