Fears over future of former Charles Burrell site

Calls have been made for a school site due to be vacated next year to remain in community use, amid fears local groups would have nowhere else to go.

A swimming club, drama group and youth worker have all emphasised the need for the South Campus of the Thetford Academy to remain in use when pupils move to the north site, currently being extended, in September next year.

So far no decision has been made on the future of the Staniforth Road building, formerly the Charles Burrell High School, which is owned by Norfolk County Council, but the authority did stress it would endeavour to decide before pupils left.

Ian Trayton, club secretary for the Thetford Dolphins, a swimming group which uses the pool three or four times a week, said closing the site could be “disastrous”.

“There’s a danger the club could fold if this closes,” he said. “We have used it for training and lessons since the club was formed 40 years ago and of course the local schools and in the surrounding villages use it.

“It really would depend on what we could do at Waterworld [part of Breckland Leisure Centre on Croxton Road] and whether we could come to some sort of arrangement with costs.”

Chairman of the Thetford Players drama group, Bob Waple, said the club’s last production, Showtime, had been held at the south site, with much success. “It should be a community hub and somewhere with activities for the kids and somewhere for the parents to meet up,” he said.

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“I think there would be quite a lot of resentment building up if this was taken away – people have always said they don’t want to lose this. It’s a hidden gem, I think, and part of the heritage.”

Town councillor for the Saxon ward and youth worker, Terry Jermy, also uses the site for a cooking club for youngsters and said he would like to see it kept as a community centre complete with the existing gym, swimming pool and offices.

He added: “There’s cross-party support for this and all seven councillors that represent the area are very much on board.

“We’ve always suffered with a lack of community facilities in the south and this would be a tremendous thing to have - it could be a beacon in Norfolk.”

Cabinet member for efficiency at Norfolk County Council, Cliff Jordan, said options for the future of the site were being “assessed”.

“We have received representations from local people on possible uses for the site, and will take these into account as well as seek further views as proposals develop,” he said.

“We know that local residents are keen for the site’s future to be decided before it is vacated, and will make every effort to meet that wish.”