Port chaplain handed keys for Great Yarmouth’s new seafarers centre

A project to create a safe haven for Great Yarmouth's visiting boatmen has taken a huge leap forward with the handover of a quayside building.

Establishing a new seafarers' centre in the town has been a long-held dream for port chaplain, the Rev Peter Paine, who was delighted to be handed the keys to the redundant building this week by bosses at EastPort.

Work will now begin in earnest in designing the new centre, which Mr Paine hopes to have open by July.

The South Quay building has been empty for a number of years and he will be working with building and construction students from Great Yarmouth College to refurbish it inside and out, to make it a welcoming spaces for the thousands of sailors who come into the town every year.

Mr Paine said: 'It's absolutely fantastic. It will mean the services I provide will come under one roof and it will be a safe roof.

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'And the Mission of Seafarers have agreed we can use their logo, which is internationally recognisable.

'Any seafarer who sees it knows exactly what it means; it's a place of safety where they can get any help they need, where they can come in and rest or talk to a chaplain if they have got something on their mind.

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'The sign means everything to us.'

Until he was given his premises on dry land, Mr Paine was working out of the back of his car. And although he was able to provide services from an office in Artillery Square, he believes a dedicated centre will be able to offer more to workers coming ashore.

To help with the refurbishment work he has called for fundraising pledges, which he is keen to collect so work can start as soon as possible.

He added: 'Everyone's raring to go. I have had the students down here before they went on their Easter break and they did a lot of brainstorming and came up with a fair idea between them.

'I think they would like to get their hands on it, and time is limited for them before the end of term.

'And I don't want it to drag on too long. If it does it loses momentum. I want people to see that the pledges they put in for it are being turned into something concrete.'

Mr Paine has been given the building on a peppercorn rent and around 100 college students are expected to help get the centre up and running.

The town has been without a base for visiting sailors for 10 years after the old Yarmouth International Seafarers' Centre closed in 2004 after it lost its national funding.

Do you have a Great Yarmouth story? Email lucy.clapham@archant.co.uk

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