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Future of Sheringham Community Centre up for discussion after town councillors call for public consultation

PUBLISHED: 18:26 17 January 2018 | UPDATED: 19:54 17 January 2018

Sheringham Community Centre. PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY

Sheringham Community Centre. PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY

Archant Norfolk 2013

The future of Sheringham Community Centre could be decided by residents, after the town council called a special meeting aimed at addressing a £45,000 a year deficit.

The main hall at Sheringham Community Centre. PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY The main hall at Sheringham Community Centre. PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY

Because opinions on the way forward for the Holway Road facility are divided among councillors, it has been agreed to discuss its future and to look at the possibility of holding a public consultation.

“It is the town’s community centre and it was bought on behalf of the town,” Sheringham mayor Mark Hill said. “But, with that comes ongoing costs and it is a very different building to the last one we had, with modern equipment that needs to be maintained to modern standards.”

Sheringham mayor Mark Hill, who says he feels positive about the future of the town's community centre. Photo: KAREN BETHELL Sheringham mayor Mark Hill, who says he feels positive about the future of the town's community centre. Photo: KAREN BETHELL

Options could include encouraging more local individuals, groups and organisations to use the centre, moving the town council offices to the community centre to cut costs, handing over its management, or even selling the building.

The centre, which is regularly used by around 20 groups, boasted the biggest hireable floor space in the town, Mr Hill added, and was equipped to cater for events and activities ranging from wedding receptions and retail fairs, to classes, club meetings and courses.

“With the best will in the world, it will probably never make a profit, but I think we are in a good position now as the hiring side is going very well and it is a fantastic facility for Sheringham,”

Former mayor Peter Cox, who has been a town councillor for nearly 40 years, said councillors needed to “put their heads together” to find a way forward for the centre.

He added: “Personally, as a council tax payer, I am alarmed that the town council is operating a facility that is costing us an enormous amount of money every year and I think it should be up to residents to decide if it has a future. Speaking as a town councillor, Sheringham has about 20 other venues available for hire and we are not obliged to operate a community centre, but it is all up for discussion at the moment.”

Deputy mayor Madeleine Ashcroft, who said most similar venues ran at a loss, felt that because the centre was well-used and needed by local people, the deficit was not of particular concern.

“Some people on the council seem to think it is not worth keeping,” she added. “But others think it is important for the town and we should be encouraging more people to use it.”

Questions over whether centre’s benefits outweigh its costs

Sheringham Community Centre was bought for £173,000 by Sheringham Town Council as part of a deal with Norfolk County Council and costs around £68,000 a year to run, including nearly £35,000 in staff costs for three part-time caretakers and an £8,500 a year repayment on a loan taken out to purchase the building.

The two storey, £2 million centre, which was paid for by Tesco when the company built a store on Cromer Road, opened in 2013.

It has a main hall, a lift and a kitchen, as well as four other rooms, a garden and a car park.

Income more than doubled within its first two years of opening, with the centre taking £33,000 between 2013 and 2014 and just over £43,400 last year.

However, while regular bookings have gone up, running costs have also increased and the deficit last year amounted to £45,000, which comes out of the town council precept.

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