Double boost for Dereham Windmill’s community hall fund

Dereham windmill in the mid morning sun Picture: Matthew Usher.

Dereham windmill in the mid morning sun Picture: Matthew Usher. - Credit: Matthew Usher

A community hall centre at Dereham's historic windmill has taken a giant leap closer to construction after trustees received two major boosts on the same day.

Breckland Council agreed a £20,000 grant for the proposed building which would include a meeting space, cafe facilities, toilets, exhibition space and car parking alongside the 19th century listed landmark.

Lynda Turner, executive member for community services at Breckland, said the key element to the application was that the new community space would be built in a part of Dereham which was currently lacking in any public facilities.

'There is a planned housing development of another 200 homes around the site and we felt it was vital that there was some facility for them,' she said.

'The community centre will be able to be used by the visitors to the windmill, the new residents of the housing development, the allotments, and people using the footpath. It should be a real bonus to the area.'

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Councillor Bill Smith said the windmill was once considered a 'white elephant' by Breckland Council but it was now 'coming into its own'.

He said: 'I am very pleased to support this application. It is a very worthwhile project.'

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Following the Breckland meeting the fund received a further endorsement from Dereham Town Council which had been asked to pledge up to £15,000 by the trustees of Dereham Windmill. The town council agreed in principle to add its financial support to the project, although the exact level of funding will be decided by a finance committee after the council's end-of-year calculations.

Alison Webb, head of fund-raising at Dereham Windmill, said with £15,000 already secured from the Garfield Weston Foundation, the two council grants could push the fund close to half its target – unlocking potential further awards which could put the total £105,000 build cost of the project within their grasp. She hopes the new centre could be built by next spring.

'Once we get to 50pc of the total it gives us much more clout to go to several other grant-giving bodies,' she said. 'Any input from the council gives us the freedom to trigger the remaining money.

'The one we want to push ahead with is Biffa. There is an opportunity to apply for up to £50,000 to give us the balance that we need.'

The Biffa Award is a multi-million pound fund which awards grants to community and environmental projects across the UK.

Mrs Webb added: 'I am thrilled with the support from Breckland and the town council, not just for the trustees but for the whole community as this will make such a difference. We have had 1,090 visitors since we opened and that is during winter months, so it has far surpassed our expectations.

'The new community hall will mean we can host many more activities, run classes and simply provide a meeting place where people can come and talk to each other.'

The windmill, on Greenfields Road, reopened to the public as a community and exhibition space last September after a £75,000 restoration project.

nDereham Windmill is hosting a teddy bear abseiling event on Saturday, April 26 at 1.30pm. Bring your teddy and see how fast it can descend from the very top of the windmill. Heats start at 2pm following by semi-finals and a final. £2 per teddy. For more information contact Alison Webb on 01362 691164.

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