'Cruel and callous' - Supporters of Holt Hall react to closure decision
- Credit: Archant
Supporters of Holt Hall have expressed their anger and disappointment at councillors' decision to close the beloved outdoor learning facility and sell it off.
On Monday, Norfolk County Council's controlling Conservative cabinet voted to stop the outdoor learning services it runs from Holt Hall - and to make the building available for sale.
Following the vote, supporters of the hall who had called for the facility to be saved expressed their disappointment at the decision.
Christine Marshall, a former headteacher of the site said she was "saddened and ultimately very angry" at the council.
She said: "[The Conservative council] has tossed aside their nationally renowned history in the provision of environmental and outdoor learning. They have taken the easy way out financially, but politically and socially they have made a very bad decision."
Mrs Marshall said she felt the council had "ignored young people's views", "the views of a very large number of people in Norfolk and a significant number beyond who have spread around the world and are now contributing to environmental improvements as a result of their experience at Holt Hall."
Calling for the "cruel and callous decision" not to be the final chapter in Holt Hall's story, she added: "This feels like an abuse of single-party power under the Conservative reintroduced cabinet system, about which we council taxpayers should be very concerned.
"There is now a brilliant specialist team at Holt Hall facing redundancy, a lot of children feeling very sad when their teachers tell them they will not be going to Holt Hall and many teachers wondering where on earth they can go that their pupils' families will be able to afford."
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Dan Roper, councillor and leader of the Liberal Democrats in Norfolk, said: "This is a sad day for Norfolk's children. A decision was taken for short term financial cuts that will see worse outcomes for the children and greater long term financial costs.
"The council's administration has not given sufficient time for a full consultation to hear everyone's views or to fully explore all the potential options for the future of Holt Hall.
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"We will call this decision into the council's scrutiny committee and call on the Conservative councillors on that committee who form a majority to consider all the evidence and not make a predetermined decision."
Mike Smith-Clare, NCC councillor for Yarmouth Nelson and Southtown wards who opposed the recommendation to close the hall, added his voice to those criticising the council's decision.
Slamming the council for its "abysmal decision" to close the centre, he said the move showed the "utter contempt this cabinet has for the lives and futures of Norfolk’s children."
He said: "They’ve sold off a unique asset without showing the slightest remorse for consigning a jewel in our county’s history and education to the bin."
Mr Smith-Clare said he did not feel the decision was a "strategic business decision" but "rubbish from a group so out of touch with the needs of our young people."
He said: "Whatever spin they put out - anyone who’s ever benefitted from their experience of outdoor learning at Holt Hall will know that this is an irreversible tragedy. This isn’t a process of enabling - it’s just more cutting and closure from a cabinet of chaos.
"Norfolk has been let down again," he said.
Nic Hopkins, one of the trustees of the Friends of Holt Hall, said the group expected the decision and was "very sad" but did not consider the decision "the end of the road."
Mr Hopkins said following the vote the group was in the process of "taking stock" and thinking about how it could turn "informal discussions" about designating the property as an asset of community value into reality.
"As far as we're concerned it's not the end of the road, whether we will succeed or not I can't foresee but we're not going to give up," he said.