Norfolk community building saved after developer stumps up cash

The future of a Norfolk community and business centre has been secured after a developer agreed to drop a bid to avoid a financial contribution towards the facility.

William Pears Group, parent company of developer Area Estates Ltd, has agreed to pay �40,000 to the Pennoyer Centre in Pulham St Mary, which was money the group owed to fulfil a community contribution condition placed on the conversion of the nearby Old Maltings building to provide 30 homes.

The Maltings project had been started by a previous developer, which went into administration and was unable to complete the conversion or provide the community funding, eventually being forced to sell the site to Area Estates Ltd.

However, the new developer initially refused to pay the community money, which totalled just over �80,000, claiming it was not aware the money needed to be paid when buying the site, an argument rejected by South Norfolk Council, which threatened enforcement action unless the money was paid by June 26.

The cash was duly paid, but Area Estates Ltd initially applied to the council to be refunded the money.

However, Sheila King, a centre trustee, wrote to the group appealing for the company to honour its commitment to the centre and the group subsequently agreed after one of its representatives, Mark Hamway, met her at the centre.

She said the absence of the developer's contribution meant a loan had to be taken out and cash from the reserves used to cover the cost of restoring the former Pennoyers School building for use as the centre and the cost of repaying the loan, at 4pc interest, threatened the centre's survival.

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The �40,000 payment will now enable the reserves to be rebuilt, preventing the centre from closing.

Mrs King said in her letter to the William Pears Group she called on the property and investment company to honour its long standing commitment to charitable and community causes, enshrined in the Pears Foundation charitable arm, by providing funding for a similar organisation.

'The money means our future is secure, whereas we were in a bit of a murky situation prior to that because of our running costs,' she added.

'We were basically �40,000 down on our reserves and as a charity we are supposed to have several months of reserves, but now our future's secure.'

The rest of the community money will pay for education, libraries and safer and healthy journeys to school.

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