Help sought to save Great Yarmouth Drill Hall

A COMMUNITY group is reaching out to other users of a listed building in an effort to save it from an uncertain future.

For years the rooms of the York Road-based Drill Hall in Great Yarmouth have been busy with a range of activities, as sports enthusiasts from around the area take advantage of its facilities.

However, many were left dismayed after a warning from Norfolk County Council that, although a decision had not been made, the users may want to consider seeking an alternative venue after April.

Now Manuel Mendonca, chairman of Portuguese group Herois Do Mar, is leading efforts to see if his organisation and others can unite to rent – or even buy – the Grade II listed building and run it for the community.

Mr Mendonca has lived in the town for a decade, and chairs an organisation that among other things runs a number of sports teams made up of British, Portuguese, and other nationalities. He said: “The Drill Hall is important because it allows people to get involved with sports and stay healthy, and also because it allows people from different cultures to get to know one another, reducing points of friction.”

Last year the council cut its subsidy for the hall – which came from the children’s services budget – and raised hire fees from �5 an hour to �18 an hour. This came from the belief that the subsidy had to be spent on youth facilities, rather than a leisure complex.

Having been told his teams could not book regular slots because of the uncertainty, Mr Mendonca, 56, is suggesting a committee of current users could be formed to run proceedings and handle user fees.

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He said: “Of course we don’t want it just for us and it’s always good for the community if you get people working together as they share the problems that can arise.”

Mr Mendonca said his group was looking to set up new classes for activities including martial arts, and estimated they could bring up to 100 people to the hall. He added: “We want to set this up to engage and involve the whole community, and we have so many talents around here.”

So far, a letter sent by NPS property consultants, who act on behalf of the county council, in response to the suggestion said they would “bear in mind the interest of your association” and added they would “ensure you are advised about the plans for the property when these have been agreed.”

Mr Mendonca’s idea has gained the support of a number of Labour councillors in the area including Brenda Taylor, who represents the Nelson ward.

She pointed to the Nelson Drill Hall in Yarmouth, which was transferred for �1 by the borough council to local charity First Move Furnishaid after 16 months of negotiation, as a possible path, and added: “I think it’s a building that needs use. It’s in the midst of a multi-national community and already holds various sports get-togethers and clubs which will need a home.

“That building, in my opinion, fills most of the requirements, and if it doesn’t stay open what will happen to it?”