Campaigners appeal for help in keeping Norwich’s Wensum Lodge Sports Hall open
Campaigners on the brink of saving a Norwich sports centre from closure have appealed to the public to help bring it back into use.
Wensum Lodge Sports Hall, in King Street, closed in December 2010, with bosses at Norfolk County Council claiming it could no longer afford the maintenance costs.
But users and community leaders rallied to save the centre, with hundreds of people attending a meeting opposed to its sale.
The Friends of Wensum Lodge produced a business plan which would enable the centre to keep running and are close to signing a lease with the county council to operate it as a community asset.
They are hoping to get the sports hall re-opened in September, but have made an urgent appeal for volunteers to come forward to help them refurbish it.
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They are looking for people to paint and decorate the centre, and to help staff it when the centre re-opens.
Lesley Grahame, Green party councillor for Thorpe Hamlet, below, said: 'This is a prime example of big society taking the initiative in spite of government, and should be supported all the way by both Norwich and Norfolk councils. We are impressed with the commitment of these volunteers to retain this vital asset for sport in Thorpe Hamlet ward.' Through the city council's local plan, a blueprint for where homes should be built in Norwich, the site is earmarked for at least 25 houses to be built there. But Sport England have stated that the loss of sports facilities is likely to heap pressure on other centres.
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Therefore, the city council has said a 'flexible approach' should be taken on the future of the sports hall part of the site.
Officers say that, if development proposals include redevelopment of the whole site, applicants must replace the existing community use with improved provision either on the site, or on an alternative site nearby.
They state such an approach leaves the way open for the Friends group to take over the running of the sports hall.
Anyone who wants to volunteer to help should call Doug Poynton of the Friends of Wensum Lodge on 07775 671327.
Are you fighting to breathe new life into part of Norwich? Call Dan Grimmer on 01603 772375 or email firstname.lastname@example.org