YMCA behind £2m plans to transform old hall into vital community hub
PUBLISHED: 12:07 24 May 2019 | UPDATED: 16:14 24 May 2019
A former hall once used by war veterans and their families which has been closed for years is to be transformed into an exciting £2m hub for the whole community run by YMCA Norfolk.
Jubilee Hall on Aylsham Road, Norwich, was once used by the Royal British Legion but has become a target for vandals since it closed its doors in 2014, despite a hard-fought campaign to keep it open.
It was hoped the building, which was bought in 2015 by the Lind Trust, might have reopened last year after ambitious plans were unveiled by the Norwich Jubilee Centre Charitable Foundation (NJCCF) in 2016.
But it has since been taken over by YMCA Norfolk, which has confirmed it is to breathe new life into the building as a community hub which is set to open next year.
The newly refurbished centre will be open to all the local community to enjoy and will offer a range of services with a particular focus on families, including a day care nursery, café and soft play centre for 0-11 year olds.
The development will also see the YMCA move their offices to the site as part of a long-term commitment to the area.
As a local charity, YMCA Norfolk will be investing money made from providing these services back into local community provision to reduce dependence on public funding that is becoming ever more scarce.
Tim Sweeting, YMCA Norfolk chief executive, said: "We are really excited to be announcing our plans to invest £2m in the future of this part of Norwich.
"This high-quality development offers a range of services that will enable us to bring local people together and develop more opportunities for them to fulfil their potential.
"As an organisation founded in Norfolk in 1856, we are committed to strengthening communities over the long-term and believe that the provision of education, employment, positive activities and leisure space will really make a difference."
The refurbishment cost is estimated at £2m.
The Lind Trust has donated the building and £500,000 towards the cost of the refurbishment work while Norfolk County Council has awarded £200,000 to the project.
The council funding comes in recognition of the huge community benefit that will be sustained over the many years of its operation.
The funding was agreed in February 2018, as part of the council's capital programme.
But the YMCA will be launching a fundraising campaign to raise £800,000 towards the remaining costs of the exciting project.
John Fisher, cabinet member for children's services at Norfolk County Council, said: "This investment will support the YMCA to bring this centre back into community use, providing nursery places and activities that families can enjoy together.
"It will also complement our new Early Childhood and Family Service, which aims to bring services for families with young children out into local community buildings.
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"We're making a capital grant available as part of that service, so we hope to be able to support the development of more small community led projects for families."
Lord Dannatt, President of YMCA Norfolk, said: "I am delighted that the YMCA has seized this opportunity to invest in the lives of people in the Aylsham Road area.
"With the support of the Lind Trust, Norfolk County Council and trusts, foundations and generous individuals I am sure we will be able to raise all the necessary money to complete this project next year. I much look forward to the re-opening in 2020."
As previously reported, after taking over the building the NJCCF had a full survey done, which revealed £195,000 would be needed to re-open the building safely - although the full refurbishment would cost in the region of £625,000.
The hall's closure was first announced in 2013, with Royal British Legion bosses saying that to keep it open would be to pose an "unacceptable risk" to charitable funds.
It was expected to close on January 1, 2014, as the branch could no longer continue to operate it, as they could not afford the monthly outgoings.
But it was granted a stay of execution after city councillors applied to get the social club listed as an asset of community value under the Localism Act.
The Norwich Evening News campaigned to help try and save the building after British Legion bosses announced plans to close the Aylsham Road-based centre.
YMCA fundraising appeal
The YMCA have launched an appeal to help raise £80,000 to help make the community hub dream a reality.
Work to clear the overgrown site has been started by Dereham-based RFT Services, but charity bosses are calling on others for their support in helping to raise the cash to enable the hub to open next year.
Tim Sweeting said: "We are grateful to RFT Services for helping us signal to the community that we will soon be open for business and would love to hear from other individuals and businesses that could give financial and practical help to take the refurbishment forward."
Warren Gannaway, operations director of RFT, said: "The redevelopment of the community hub in the north of Norwich is a hugely important project that will have a positive impact on the wider community."
To make a donation to the or offer support please visit www.ymcanorfolk.org or contact Susie Knights on 01603 340870.