‘Despicable’: anger as Holt Hall to close after 70 years
PUBLISHED: 20:20 21 October 2020 | UPDATED: 07:58 22 October 2020
Archant Norfolk 2015
An outdoor learning centre which has served generations of Norfolk schoolchildren over the past 70 years is to close.
Norfolk County Council has said it can no longer afford to run Holt Hall, after a review into the future of the centre - along with Whitlingham Adventure - was launched earlier this year.
The decision has been labelled “despicable” by an opposition leader.
Councillor John Fisher, cabinet member for children’s services at the Conservative-run council, said: “We have now started a formal employment consultation with staff, outlining our proposal to end our delivery of outdoor learning at Holt Hall.
“Even with this year’s proposed budget savings we have a £15m gap in our budget, so retaining Holt Hall would mean the potential loss of other vital services for children.”
Steff Aquarone, the council’s Liberal Democrat group leader, said: “Outdoor learning provides a whole host of learning and health benefits to children who visit them.
“I know several constituents in Melton Constable who are well into adulthood, and remember their visits to Holt Hall fondly.”
“The Conservatives’ attempt to hide this decision from public examination is despicable.”
County councillor, Mike Smith-Clare, Labour’s lead for children and young people, added: “It’s unbelievable that yet again this Tory administration fails to see the benefits of our county’s physical resources.
“From youth and children’s centres to now Holt Hall - they appear to have absolutely no understanding of the positive impact these treasures have on our lives.
“They’re holding Norfolk’s families in total contempt and robbing our children and young people of future opportunities and life enriching experiences.”
Sarah Butikofer (Lib Dem), county councillor for Holt, said she hoped the site could still be saved. Mrs Butikofer said: “The pandemic has made us realise the importance of outdoor spaces on our wellness and health.
“We need to see if there’s a way to save the facility before any decisions are rushed into.
“Once you’ve sold assets like this off you can’t get them back.”
MORE: Future of much-loved outdoor centres thrown into doubt
The council has not yet confirmed its plans for Whitlingham Adventure, but it was understood it could continue to come under the Whitlingham Charitable Trust, but be operated by a third party.
Mr Fisher said buildings at both sites required “significant maintenance” which the council could not pay for as it was facing a £15 million funding shortfall.
MORE: Looking back on seven decades at Holt Hall
He added: “The financial situation has become even more challenging because the pandemic has created a bigger funding gap for the council.
“Both centres had to close during lockdown and it remains unclear when the government will allow residential visits to resume, or when schools will feel confident in taking their students on trips.”
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