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Cafe plan for town park takes step forward

PUBLISHED: 16:38 12 September 2019 | UPDATED: 17:15 12 September 2019

The back of the former gatehouse in Priory Gardens which is being turned into a cafe and community hub Picture: Archant

The back of the former gatehouse in Priory Gardens which is being turned into a cafe and community hub Picture: Archant

Archant

Volunteers with a vision can crack on with their community hub scheme for a rundown gatehouse after a lease deal was struck.

Richard Routledge and Marlene Fairhead of the Friends of Priory Gardens, a charity group which is pressing ahead with plans to transform the old gatehouse building into a cafe and community hub Picture: Liz CoatesRichard Routledge and Marlene Fairhead of the Friends of Priory Gardens, a charity group which is pressing ahead with plans to transform the old gatehouse building into a cafe and community hub Picture: Liz Coates

Some £200,000 is needed to transform the historic building in Gorleston's Priory Gardens into a cafe haven bringing a raft of benefits, including a heritage centre.

And The Friends of Priory Gardens, a charity group that aims to guarantee its future, is busy unlocking pockets of funding to make their dream a reality after taking on the lease this month.

Marlene Fairhead, a borough councillor whose ward includes the gardens, said they were an oasis of calm between the busy high street and Church Road that could be more used and the bungalow transformed into a base.

Under ambitious plans already approved the boarded-up building, once the gatekeeper's house to the long-gone priory, will house a cafe, meeting rooms, a base for the town's heritage group, and a new garden conservatory with outside seating.

She said now the lease had been signed fundraising could begin in earnest.

Students at East Coast College were primed to do much of the work giving them real-life training and experience, and it was hoped young people with special needs would run the cafe helping them on the way to paid work.

Richard Routledge, who owns What is Hip? said he was passionate about the garden space which was part of the town's history.

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Having hosted several vintage picnics there he was sold on its potential and keen to move forward with the community hub project.

"I genuinely want people to go in that park," he said.

"This is a great place to live and a great place to have a business.

"We want to draw people to something they do not realise they have got.

"Gorleston is important to us and it's really important to work with the community.

"Now the lease has been agreed we really can get on with getting the money to develop it.

"The sooner the money comes through, the sooner we can start."

Priory Gardens was left to the town by the Hill family.

The gatehouse lodge dates from around 1800.

Anyone who can help with fundraising, ideas, or trustee skills can contact the Friends via their Facebook page.

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