Funding shortage spells end of Stalham regeneration group

A community organisation set up to support regeneration in Stalham and 20 surrounding parishes is to close after seven years after district council funding was withdrawn.

The Stalham with Happing Partnership took the decision to formally wind up after attempts to find alternative sources of funding failed.

The partnership is among seven similar bodies in north Norfolk which no longer receive vital cash from the second homes council tax following a decision by Conservative-controlled North Norfolk District Council to plough the money into a Big Society Fund instead.

Happing Partnership chairman Eric Lindo said: 'It is a great shame, particularly when national government is trying to encourage the Big Society. We had a real example of how the Big Society can work for minimal outlay in seven different locations in north Norfolk and now all that groundwork has been lost.'

Funding was withdrawn from Spring 2012 but the partnership was able to keep its Happing Shop in Stalham High Street open until the end of September with reserves and support from the Flux Family Fund. The partnership's only paid member of staff - partnership coordinator Michael Castle - left his role earlier this year.

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The partnership's subsidiary company Happing Festival Limited, which funded the annual June to September festival, will also now be wound up, but Mr Lindo said there was no reason the event couldn't continue next year with a committee volunteers.

The Happing Shop, which received more than 5,000 visits every year, was used as a base by the Citizens Advice Bureau, Norfolk Credit Union's Happing Community Bank, Learning for Everyone, and Happing Writers' Group as well as for a range of services, including selling tickets for local events and a tourist and residents' advice centre.

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Mr Lindo said tens of unemployed volunteers had gone on to find permanent jobs as a direct result of their work experience with the partnership along with help from the Connexions careers advice service, which also operated from the shop.

He said other successes of the partnership included the Happing Community and Business Directory, the Walk Books, the Happing website and bags for life in conjunction with Stalham High School.

Mr Lindo said the partnership cost �40,000 per year to run, which included shop rent, business rates and Mr Castle's wages, amongst other things.

Speaking following the decision to end the partnership during a meeting this month, Mr Lindo thanked all who had been involved with the partnership.

'At any given time as many as 60 to 80 people could be involved in this community enterprise for the price of one paid member of staff and that seems a pretty good return on investment by anybody's standards,' he added.

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