Town council to take on running of former Thetford school site

Thetford Academy, South Campus, formerly the Charles Burrell High School, which has been awarded £18

Thetford Academy, South Campus, formerly the Charles Burrell High School, which has been awarded £18 million funding with the North Campus, formerly Rosemary Musker High School. - Credit: ©Archant Photographic 2011

A town council has big plans to turn a disused school site into a multi-purpose community facility after agreeing to take on its running.

The former Charles Burrell High School site in Staniforth Road, Thetford, has been empty since July, when former tenants, Thetford Academy, moved to a single site on Croxton Road.

Eager for the site not to become derelict, Thetford Town Council set up a committee to look at ways to bring the building back into community use.

At a special meeting on Tuesday night, members agreed to take on the management of the site after being presented with a vision for its development by entrepreneur, Robert Ashton.

Mr Ashton said the site could become one of two extremes.

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'We could end up with a great community resource, with people involved and some very modern facilities.

'The other extreme is that it's left and we end up with a derelict site. There doesn't really seem to be much of a middle ground with this kind of project,' he said.

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Mr Ashton cited the example of Shine, a social enterprise in Leeds which has brought a derelict middle school site back into community use.

The meeting saw a strong public turnout, with many groups expressing an interest in using the site.

These included scouting groups, Thetford Bulldogs FC, a ballet group and Thetford Dolphins Swimming Club.

Councillor Terry Jermy presented to members a proposal of how the council would run the site.

This would include a feasibility study being carried out and arrangements for staffing.

Norfolk County Council, who own the site, are currently spending £1,000 a week on security there, according to Mr Jermy.

He said they would be willing to pay that money to the town council until March if they took on the management of the site.

The town council would also allocate £23,000 from its budget to fund the project, with a view to recouping costs through booking fees from groups that use the site.

Norfolk County Council would still own the building, with the town council signing a temporary lease or licence.

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