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Abbey Barns well-wisher sought

PUBLISHED: 13:42 12 April 2010 | UPDATED: 22:01 07 July 2010

A Thetford heritage group is looking for a well-wisher to help it buy the Abbey Barns and safeguard the historically important buildings for the future.

A Thetford heritage group is looking for a well-wisher to help it buy the Abbey Barns and safeguard the historically important buildings for the future.

The Thetford Society lost its battle for the preservation of the Grade I listed barns, off Monksgate, after a public inquiry last year.

As a result, planning permission was granted to applicant HG Developers for a 26-home scheme which will include demolitions, conversions, and construction of new buildings.

But the group has expressed an interest in buying the former cluniac monastery and is hoping a “generous benefactor” can help with the cost.

Thetford Society environment committee chairman Stuart Wilson said: “We decided in the end we would not be appealing because of the cost involved if we lost.

“We're exploring other options but at the moment we've got nothing concrete because the sticking point is that the site is for sale for about £950,000 but we wouldn't be able to afford anything like the asking price.

“We're on the search for a generous benefactor and waiting to see what happens to the site. It's not financially viable as a residential site so I can't see the developers selling it anywhere near the asking price.”

He added: “In an ideal world we'd like Breckland to buy it and give it to the Moving Thetford Forward Board. We'd like to work with them to model it as a heritage site for Thetford.”

Leader of Breckland Council William Nunn however ruled out any involvement with the Abbey Barns.

“The original decision to sell the Abbey Barns site was carefully considered and we consulted widely on the issue,” he said.

“English Heritage would not support a restoration of the buildings and therefore the only option to preserve them in any form was to sell them off for housing.

Mr Wilson said the group had approached the Heritage Lottery Fund which said it would consider the project but could not fund the purchase of the site itself. The group has also secured the pro-bono services of an architect to help draw up a planning application.

Anybody who can help the Thetford Society with the Abbey Barns should contact Mr Wilson at ghsstuartw@hotmail.com.

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