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Petition fight to keep Drill Hall

PUBLISHED: 18:27 09 July 2009 | UPDATED: 14:22 03 July 2010

NORFOLK County Council has defended its move not to consult user groups at a Great Yarmouth sports hall which could be transformed into a youth centre if a funding bid is successful.

NORFOLK County Council has defended its move not to consult user groups at a Great Yarmouth sports hall which could be transformed into a youth centre if a funding bid is successful.

The old Drill Hall on York Road is subject to a £1.7m government funding bid which would see the hall divided into smaller units.

The hall is used by about 300 people for a range of activities including table tennis and basketball and users have criticised the county council over the lack of consultation with them.

The first many users heard about the plans is when the Mercury revealed the Myplace funding bid on June 5.

However, Alison McPhail, area service manager for children's services, said the bid was in the very early stages and wide consultation would be inappropriate at this time.

She said: “We have chosen not have consultation at this stage because there is nothing to consult on.”

The bidding process began in 2008 when eight young people aged between 12 and 16 and supported by a youth worker, were given the task to consult their peers over what facilities they would like to see in a new one-stop-shop youth venue. Plans on the table include offering young people business advice and help with CVs.

Youngsters have also worked with architects at NPS Property Consultants on potential plans for the listed building.

Last month the county council submitted an expression of interest in the funding and it will be revealed later this month if the project will go through to the second stage.

A completed bid must be submitted by September and a final decision on funding will be given in December.

Mrs McPhail said consultation with existing groups at the hall and local residents would begin in August.

“We are looking to hold an open day where people will be invited to the hall to see the plans. This is a really good opportunity to have a centre of excellence for young people, not just from that area, but from right across the borough,” she said.

The news has angered hall users who say it will be difficult to find alternative facilities but Jeff Leak, eastern area team leader at children's services, said the hall was running at a loss, and had done for many years. It also needed renovation.

Mark Westgate, who helps run basketball sessions at the venue, said: “We don't dispute that the building needs work but surely there are other buildings in the town they could use rather than take away a sports facility.

“There is nowhere else for us to go.”

Mr Westgate said a petition had been set up against plans to transform the hall into a youth centre and had gathered about 100 signatures.

What do you think? Write to The Mercury, 169 King Street Yarmouth NR30 2PA or email anne.edwards@archant.co.uk

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