New lease of life for Redcastle

A prominent Norfolk charity has taken over the lease of a Thetford community centre that neighbours feared would be left to rack and ruin.

A prominent Norfolk charity has taken over the lease of a Thetford community centre that neighbours feared would be left to rack and ruin.

The Redcastle Furze Community Centre, based on the estate of the same name, was recently handed back to Breckland Council from Peddars Way Housing Association after it failed to pay its own way.

Now a decision has been made by the council to lease the community centre to the Benjamin Foundation for �6,000 per year.

This is in addition to �10,000 for existing fixtures and fittings, and incorporates an option for the charity to buy the centre for �50,000, unless a lower figure is agreed, within 30 months of the start of the lease.

People living on the Redcastle Estate launched a bid earlier this year to save their community centre before it was handed to the council, fearing it would be boarded up and forgotten about.

It was subsequently closed in July but Terry Jermy, Thetford Town Councillor for the Saxon Ward, and community worker for the Keystone Trust, said he hoped that reopening it would reunite the neighbourhood.

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He added: “In terms of the estate it's absolutely fantastic that, one, we've got this exciting project in Thetford and two, they're basing it in the heart of the community.

“We've had problems for a while with youngsters not staying in education post 16 and now finally, something is being done about it.”

In August this year the Benjamin Foundation, which helps youngsters and adults cope with challenges in life, secured funding to help launch an initiative working with young people on the Abbey, Redcastle and Barnham Cross estates.

The government funding, which was worth �400,000 over two years, will be used to establish a range of services including a drop-in youth centre and cafe, a training base, a community horticulture scheme, and a school/community radio station.

Sharon Matthews, operational manager at the Benjamin Foundation said the community centre would be used as a base for a youth caf� and hopefully training opportunities for youngsters and their families.

She said: “In my view, and talking to young people across Thetford and Norfolk, they don't want a youth club as such, they want something a bit more open access where they can hang out and not be considered antisocial because they're young.

“When we looked at the Redcastle Furze community centre we realised it's right in the heart of the estate so you're right in the heart of the community rather than shoved onto the outskirts.”

In Breckland Council's decision, published on its website, it said: “A community centre does not fit in with the council's commercial property portfolio and left empty, attracts vandalism and criticism that a facility has been taken away from them.

“The Benjamin Foundation work with children and young people within the community and is therefore an ideal tenant/purchaser for this property.”