Town council set to take on vacant Charles Burrell site

Cllrs outside the Thetford Academy site which they are due to reopen for community use.l-r:Cllr Sylv

Cllrs outside the Thetford Academy site which they are due to reopen for community use.l-r:Cllr Sylvia Armes, Cllr Terry Jermy, Cllr Mike Brindle and Cllr Denis Crawford. - Credit: Eastern Daily Press © 2013

An enterprise agency, training provider, housing association and swim club social enterprise could be among those teaming up with a town council to make best use of a vacant school site.

Thetford Town Council is in the last stages of finalising terms to lease the former Charles Burrell High School site from Norfolk County Council after it was vacated by Thetford Academy last July.

The closure of the site left the Barnham Cross Estate with a shortage of facilities and several community groups looking for a new home.

The town council has since received a number of expressions of interest in using the site.

To assist the project, it took on the services of social entrepreneur, Robert Ashton, who has been working to find a way to make sure the site meets local needs and bring opportunities to the area.

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Mr Ashton said: 'The project presents a golden opportunity to bring together in one place a range of organisations, each bringing services that complement each other.

'That makes it easier for local people to learn new skills, gain valuable experience, get local jobs or become self-employed, with all the expertise they need right here in one place.'

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Preliminary talks have already taken place with the potential partners, which come from Norfolk, Suffolk and further afield.

The town council will work with the groups to put together a coordinated business plan that will see the campus gradually occupied over the coming months.

Norfolk County Council's management of the site had come under scrutiny at the start of the year after it was revealed it was paying £2,500 a week to keep it secure, having originally claimed it was only spending £1,000 a week.

Terry Jermy, town and county councillor for Thetford, said the project would be of massive benefit to the town.

'If this projects goes ahead and the plans we have in place materialise than I have every confidence that it will revolutionise this area of Thetford, and benefit the whole town as well.

'The project will provide not just a venue for a variety of groups and organisations but give access to a whole range of services and opportunities,' he said.

Do you think the site will benefit Thetford? Let us know by emailing reporter Andrew Fitchett on

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