MEP Richard Howitt praises “incredible achievement” on visit to former Thetford school project

Richard Howitt, MEP, visits the former Charles Burrell High School building, which has been taken ov

Richard Howitt, MEP, visits the former Charles Burrell High School building, which has been taken over by Thetford town council for community use, as the Charles Burrell Centre. Richard Howitt has a go at cheerleading with girls from the Thundercats group. From left, Oliwia Racka, 11; Zuzanna Dobuszynska, 11; Mallory Dady, 10; Paris Berry, 10; and Thetford Mayor, Sylvia Armes. Picture: Denise Bradley - Credit: copyright: Archant 2014

An MEP has praised the work of a council who took a former school site which was earmarked for demolition and transformed into a hub for local groups.

Richard Howitt was at the Charles Burrell Centre in Thetford last Tuesday to see how Thetford Town Council has turned the former Thetford Academy South Campus into a multi-use facility for its community.

The building, which is valued between £10-12m, is on a 30 year lease to the town council from owners Norfolk County Council, having closed as a school last July. The town council can opt out and hand the building back to the county council if the project does not work out.

Mr Howitt, who was in Thetford as part of his campaign for re-election to the European Parliament, said its resurrection was an “incredible achievement”: “To save the school as a community facility instead of it being abandoned is amazing.

“It should also be remembered that this is a Labour achievement.”

Groups ranging from model rail enthusiasts to cheerleading troupes and drama classes are among more than 40 to have signed up to use the space since it opened in April.

Several small businesses, including a call centre, have also moved into the building.

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Ian Dixon, chairman of Thetford & District Model Railway Society, said the building had provided a “perfect” space after the group was left looking for a new home.

“We were looking for better premises and facilities because we were stuck in a small space out in Brandon and membership was dropping.

“Since I heard the centre was being opened, we looked at the rates and decided we would like to move in. Since then, people have heard we are moving and we have had a lot of interest, with a possible six new members signing up,” he said.

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