Great Yarmouth charity launches £1.5m bid for bigger premises

Centre 81 has launched a £1.5m appeal to buy Mildred Stone House. Members are pictured giving the thumbs up as they issue a rallying call to local folk. Also pictured is Joe Smith a member for more than eight years. Centre 81 has launched a £1.5m appeal to buy Mildred Stone House. Members are pictured giving the thumbs up as they issue a rallying call to local folk. Also pictured is Joe Smith a member for more than eight years.

Saturday, June 7, 2014
3:01 PM

A charity which helps adults with physical and sensory disabilities is asking people to support a £1.5m fund-raising appeal to secure larger premises and help it grow in Great Yarmouth.

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Centre 81 wants to acquire and convert the Mildred Stone residential care home next to its own site in Tar Works Road to establish a landmark facility – but faces competition from developers and needs to move fast.

As well as increasing the number of people it can support, the development of Mildred Stone House, which soon becomes vacant, would provide assisted living accommodation for disabled people and fully-accessible holiday units.

It would also offer facilities for other charities and community groups.

Karl Jermyn, chairman of Centre 81’s board of trustees, said, “This is an extraordinarily ambitious project but one we are determined to see realised. Our current premises are bursting at the seams.

“We can’t accommodate any more new members of staff here and we have to find a new site on which to grow, so we can provide services for more disabled people. That also involves employing more staff, which is good for the local economy.

“There is a real demand that’s not currently being met and we would ask the people of the borough to get behind this project to help us create something really special for Great Yarmouth. Every single penny raised will go towards enriching the lives of disabled people in our area.”

Centre 81 operates a skills and activities centre for a membership of about 70 disabled people. It also runs a fleet of fully-accessible minibuses for people who can’t access traditional public transport, including those with a disability, elderly people and those who live in remote areas.

This community transport door-to-door service has about 700 members in the borough. Centre 81’s current premises – a former school kitchen and some portable buildings – are old and costly to maintain. When it was announced that Mildred Stone House was to close and the residents moved to a new, purpose-built home, Centre 81 saw it as an ideal opportunity to acquire the site and grow.

Diana Staines, chief executive of Centre 81, said: “Mildred Stone House is our first choice because it’s spacious and located close to the town, giving members easy access to shops and other facilities. But we’re facing stiff competition from developers and others and have to move quickly to raise the £1.5m we need to buy and convert it.

Mildred Stone House was put up for sale in April by Norse Property Consultants (NPS), which is owned by Norfolk County Council, and sealed bids were due to be opened on May 8.

The sale was delayed, however, after Great Yarmouth Borough Council agreed to Centre 81’s request to register Mildred Stone House as an asset of community value. NPS can appeal but, if this is turned down, Centre 81 has six months to raise the money to buy the property.

Donations to the New Centre 81 Appeal can be made via the website www.newcentre81.co.uk or by sending a cheque made out to Centre 81 to Centre 81, Tar Works Road, Great Yarmouth NR30 1QR. If you would like support for a fund-raising event or more information on the appeal, call Diana Staines on 01493 852573.

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