Yarmouth Drill Hall to close, shock

PUBLISHED: 10:00 16 April 2010 | UPDATED: 17:27 30 June 2010

THE future of sports groups using Great Yarmouth's Drill Hall has once again been thrown into jeopardy after Norfolk County Council decided to shut the facility.

THE future of sports groups using Great Yarmouth's Drill Hall has once again been thrown into jeopardy after Norfolk County Council decided to shut the facility.

Representatives of groups that regularly use the York Road hall were told by county councillors the hall would have to shut within the next 12 months because they were no longer prepared to subsidise it with money intended for children's services.

No decision has yet been made on what will happen to the hall once it has closed, though the council intends to divert its contribution to provide youth services from other venues in the area. In the meantime, the building's users are facing a massive hire hike from £5 to £18.50 an hour.

The decision has angered users including Mark Westgate, who runs a ladies' basketball team at the hall.

He said: “They have handled it in a way that suits them and totally neglects the needs of the community. By closing the hall, they are going to stop 300 people from exercising. I think it is just poor the way the decisions have been made. They have not included us in decisions and have failed to provide any facts and figures with the working parties that they have set up.”

In July last year members of user groups, including tennis, badminton and basketball, were hopeful about the hall's future after the county council failed in a bid for £1.7m of lottery funding to transform it into a youth centre.

They had collected a 1,000-signature petition calling for the plans to be dropped as the county council looked at ways to try to make it profitable.

Phil Holmes, the council's acting area director, said he appreciated the hall was well-used, but the money was coming from the council's children's services budget, but paying for a leisure facility.

“Children have to be our first priority and we cannot justify spending funding for youth services on subsidising leisure provision. We have therefore decided to increase the hourly rate for users of the building, from £5 to £18.50, a hire charge which remains considerably cheaper than other sports facilities in the area.

“We have discussed this with users of the building and have also been talking to them about the future of the hall, as it is a listed building which needs considerable investment and is expensive to run.

“We believe our services can be delivered more efficiently from other venues in the area, which are more suited to youth work and are therefore looking to move our services out of the building within the next year.

“We will hold another public meeting in the coming months to consult users further about the future of the building. In the meantime, we are working with the badminton club to look for an alternative location for them to meet. We are also hoping to work with the borough council to support other users of the hall.”

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