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Claims that town hall changes will destroy club

PUBLISHED: 09:11 22 January 2020 | UPDATED: 09:11 22 January 2020

Downham Market Town Hall. Picture: Sarah Hussain

Downham Market Town Hall. Picture: Sarah Hussain

Archant

A member of a club aimed at tackling loneliness and isolation for the older generation has claimed it is under threat of "destruction" by the town council.

Peter Roger Smith, committee member for Silver Threads, claimed Downham Market Town Council had restricted the facilities available for clubs that used the Town Hall on Bridge Street.

The 76-year-old, from Wiggenhall St Mary Magdalen, said new time conditions meant the club was not able to properly prepare for meetings and the storage facilities the town 
council was now offering were inadequate.

But the town council said the move had been made to be fair to all users and to make "optimal use of the space".

Mr Smith said: "It is with sadness I see an attempt to remove all the clubs from using the Town Hall.

"We are a club aimed at the older generations, with several members living alone. Our weekly meetings are a lifeline to help combat loneliness and isolation.

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"To have been threatened like this is unforgivable. It is time for the council to stop this damage before it is too late."

The club, which runs from 2pm to 4pm on the first three Thursdays of the month, could previously use the Town Hall at 1.30pm to set up but now has access from 1.45pm.

Mr Smith has also claimed that storage facilities for the club have been removed, which has resulted in hundreds of books being given away to charity and club members having to take items home with them.

He said: "We're slowly being pushed out. It makes life very difficult for us, especially for elderly people. Changing it rushes us.

"A bunch of people aged 70 or 80 carrying things back and forth is not really an option. It's really not fair. The council is meant to be there for the people, not to force them out."

Elaine Oliver, Downham Market town clerk, said: "We're trying to make it fair for every user. We want to do everything we can to help and are keen on helping them in every which way we can, but we can't give them half an hour as it runs into other bookings.

"We're trying to be fair to all and not give anyone preferential treatment and we're trying to make optimal use of the space."

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