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Costs drive out Drill Hall users

PUBLISHED: 10:37 03 September 2010 | UPDATED: 11:59 16 September 2010

SPORTS clubs claim they are being forced out of their home by rocketing hire costs.

Coaches with basketball groups using the Drill Hall in York Road, Great Yarmouth, a Grade II listed building say they are reducing the number of sessions they are running each week after Norfolk County Council nearly tripled the cost of renting the hall for an hour.

SPORTS clubs claim they are being forced out of their home by rocketing hire costs.

Coaches with basketball groups using the Drill Hall in York Road, Great Yarmouth, a Grade II listed building say they are reducing the number of sessions they are running each week after Norfolk County Council nearly tripled the cost of renting the hall for an hour.

Mark Westgate, who ran a ladies basketball group, said he used to be able to hire the hire the hall for £5 an hour, but on August 1 the county council increased the hourly cost to £18.

He said the knock-on effect had been that a badminton group using the hall on Friday mornings had now moved to the Kings Centre in Yarmouth, while there were no basketball groups on Saturdays or Sundays.

The future of the hall has been in jeopardy for over a year since the council sought £1.7m of lottery funding to divide the hall into smaller units to create a youth centre.

However, the council's bid failed and earlier this year it cut its subsidy for the hall from the children's services budget because the money was not intended for a leisure facility, sparking fears it planned to close the hall.

But in April this year, the council suffered another setback when it discovered the hall was Grade II listed, restricting any possible redevelopment.

Now Mr Westgate believes the hire costs may force the sports clubs, including badminton and tennis teams out, though he had not heard from the council even though it promised to carry out a consultation before going ahead with any closure.

He added: “For me, when the council failed to get the lottery funding, that was the day they decided to close the drill hall down. They just had to go through the public consultation to show the hall's use had declined.

“We have never got a straight answer from them - they made their minds up as to whether they were going to close it without any consultation and that was it.”

Basketball coach Jim West, who has run groups at the hall for 23 years, said he had to axe the two hour Saturday junior session, for youngsters aged 12-18, because its members could not afford to pay £3 each to cover the hire cost.

He decided to close the session because numbers could fluctuate between eight and 15, which was not enough to cover costs, but a Friday night adult session regularly attracted 12 players and was able to continue.

The impact on the junior session was ironic given the council had wanted to re-direct funding towards children's services, he added.

Mr West said: “I don't think the council is trying to force us out. They will have to make a decision on whether to close it or not.”

A county council spokeswoman said no decision had been made on whether to close the hall. She added the charges were previously good value and were still competitive after the increase.

She said the council would consult the hall's user groups this autumn before deciding whether to close it, but said the current revenue from the hall was not enough to meet its running costs.

“Now more than ever the county council cannot justify this kind of spending and while it is a shame that there is some uncertainty over the future of the hall, I hope people understand the reasons behind it,” she said.


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