Decision on outdoor learning centre Holt Hall’s future expected early next month
- Credit: Archant
A decision on the future of an outdoor learning centre in Norfolk will be made early next month.
Holt Hall, the second largest provider of both outdoor learning residential stays and outdoor learning day visits in the county, is potentially facing closure after Norfolk County Council said it is no longer able to afford the facility.
The announcement, made in October, was met with an outcry, with the former head of the Hall warning if the “much-loved” outdoor education centre closed the county’s children will be the “real losers”, while a petition to save the service has so far received 5,000 signatures.
On Wednesday (November 18), Sara Tough, executive director of children’s services, told the county council’s scrutiny committee the decision will be made by cabinet on December 7.
Concerns were raised, however, by chairman, Cllr Steve Morphew, that the decision-making process has been “flawed”, leaving the authority open to allegations of maladministration and open to judicial review.
Mr Morphew questioned Cllr John Fisher, cabinet member for children’s services at the Conservative-run council, over his statement last month that the centre was to close – before it later emerged Mr Fisher had spoken too soon, and in fact consultation with the centre’s 13 staff is set to continue.
At Wednesday’s meeting, Mr Fisher said: “I may have been a little bit wide of the mark, so should perhaps apologise for that.”
The committee recommended the decision-making process continue to be kept under review to ensure it meets the requirements of the constitution, with proper consultation, and is robust, before cabinet is asked to make a decision.
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Steffan Aqualone, the council’s Liberal Democrat group leader, said he was “shocked at the level of gagging imposed on staff who say they should be part of the decision on the future of Holt Hall”.
Ms Tough said there has been a consultation process with staff.
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“We’ve spoken to staff, we’re not preventing staff sharing their ideas with us,” she said.
The consultation comes after a NCC review of Holt Hall – which celebrated its 70th anniversary earlier this year – found it had cost the authority more than £270,000 over the last three years.