Centre to make six staff members redundant as it fights to stop closure

The Letton Hall christian conference centre. Photo: Denise Bradley

The Letton Hall christian conference centre. Photo: Denise Bradley - Credit: Archant © 2006

A Christian conference centre says it has been forced to make six members of staff redundant and is fighting to avoid closure next year.

The historic Letton Hall, which hosts retreats for church groups, had to close in March with the outbreak of coronavirus.

It has survived since then on the government’s furlough scheme, but with that support coming to an end this month, the future of the hall, near Cranworth, is deeply uncertain.

Assistant manager Tim Blanche said: “At the end of this month we will be making the vast majority of our staff redundant and we will be keeping a very small team to see if we can continue until the situation improves.

“If nothing changes it seems very plausible that at some point in the early part of next year Letton could close on a permanent basis.”

Located about six miles south of Dereham, the hall is grade II listed, which makes adapting the 231-year-old building for social distancing very difficult.

“We’re going to invest a little bit of money and try to rent out the Norfolk Wing as a holiday let,” manager Jon Horrox said.

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The Norfolk Wing is a self-contained part of the site, which can accommodate a group of up to six people, in line with government guidance.

If at least 60pc of the Norfolk Wing was occupied throughout the winter period, the hall may make it through into 2021.

But Mr Horrox said he was not sure if 60pc occupancy was “feasible”.

The hall is therefore also exploring other ways to bring in some revenue.

“We might re-jig another part of the house as well to create another holiday let,” he said.

“We have a lot of shared facilities, and that’s one of the reasons we haven’t coped very well. We could probably create some sort of one-way system, but it wouldn’t be ideal.”

The hall’s financial problems are compounded by the challenges of maintaining such a large and old building, with hefty heating bills and significant repairs required for its leaking roof.

The centre has not yet been successful in its bids for government grants, though regular users of the hall are looking to set up a crowd-funding page.