No sale pledge after council backtracks over future of Norwich’s The Garage, Sewell Barn Theatre and Bowthorpe Community Hub

The Garage, Norwich. Photo: Benjamin Mathers.

The Garage, Norwich. Photo: Benjamin Mathers. - Credit: Benjamin Mathers

There will be no sale of three Norwich venues which play a key role in their communities, after councillors ended 'a cloud of uncertainty' over their future.

The Sewell Barn Theatre. Picture: Denise Bradley

The Sewell Barn Theatre. Picture: Denise Bradley - Credit: Archant 2013

Norfolk County Council officers also apologised for failing to talk to the organisations, who had no knowledge that their futures could in doubt until a report discussing their potential 'disposal' was drawn up.

The Norwich Evening News revealed on Saturday how Norfolk County Council officers had recommended 10 sites be declared as 'surplus' to requirements, potentially allowing their future sale.

Among properties in Norwich, currently leased out, were performing arts centre The Garage in Chapel Field North, The Sewell Barn Theatre on the site of Sewell Park Academy and the Bowthorpe Community Hub in Bowthorpe Hall Road.

The news they were at risk of being considered for 'disposal' came as a shock to bosses at The Garage and Sewell Barn. Simon George, the council's finance director, admitted yesterday it had not been his department's 'their finest hour' as they had not consulted them.


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Alan Gidney, a trustee of Sewell Barn, told councillors the theatre still had 23 years left on its lease with the council and urged councillors to think again over placing it on the list.

And members of the council's policy and resources committee eased concerns when they scrapped plans to add them to a list of property deemed surplus to the authority's requirements.

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Councillors were angry a question mark was being placed over the fate of such important community assets.

Adrian Dearnley, Green county councillor, proposed the removal of the properties from the list. Councillors subsequently ditched the list in its entirety.

Mr Dearnley said: 'These are well established community resources. Classification of these assets as 'surplus to requirement' was ill-judged and sent out the wrong message to the community at large, especially those organisations who provide these services to our residents, and young people in particular.

'I think it would be very prudent to remove them from the list until this can be looked at in more details without the Sword of Damocles hanging over them.'

His proposal was backed by Conservative Ian Mackie, who said afterwards he hoped the organisations would will give reassurance to those users that 'a cloud of uncertainty' had been lifted.

Labour's Steve Morphew said: 'I think there should be an apology. 'Most of these organisations are always looking to partnerships for raising money and as soon as something enters into the mix such as that the building might be sold, that can be very damaging.'

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