'It's awful' - Campaigners who battled to save Holt Hall angry at sale

Holt Hall

Holt Hall is to be sold to a mystery buyer. - Credit: Colin Finch

Campaigners who fought to keep Holt Hall in use for education purposes have said they are "angry and disappointed" that council bosses are selling the property to be used as a home.

Norfolk County Council has agreed the sale of its former outdoor learning centre, on the outskirts of Holt, to a mystery buyer.

The buyer wants to use the Grade II-listed building, within 86 acres of land, as a private property - not as an educational establishment.

Holt Hall environmental and outdoor learning centre

Norfolk County Council has agreed to sell Holt Hall to a mystery bidder. - Credit: Archant

That will bring a definitive end to the Victorian mansion's use as an education centre used by generations of Norfolk schoolchildren.

And that is a bitter blow to the Friends of Holt Hall, who had been fighting to keep the building in use for educational purposes.

When the county council announced it wanted to sell the hall, saying it could no longer afford to run it, the Friends group got it declared as an asset of community value with North Norfolk District Council.

They put forward their own bid, but that did not prove viable.

It is understood other bidders, which had intended to keep the hall for educational purposes, were outbid by the mystery buyer.

While the council has not revealed how much Holt Hall would be sold for, the successful bidder outbid others by at least £2m.

Nic Hopkins, A trustee of the friends of Holt Hall.

Nic Hopkins, A trustee of the friends of Holt Hall. - Credit: Nic Hopkins

Nic Hopkins, trustee and treasurer for the Friends of Holt Hall, said: "I cannot say I am altogether surprised, but I am angry and extremely disappointed.

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"Everything the cynics said could happen seems to have happened and this is all about money, not about the value of a community asset. It's awful."

"We put a huge amount of effort in and I think the council were quite surprised we were prepared to do that and brought interested parties to the table."

Mr Hopkins said those schoolchildren who had gone to Holt Hall over the decades had benefitted hugely from the experience.

He said: "It was a life changing experience for so many. It was an opportunity to be apart from family, with friends and classmates.

"That was such a good grounding for young people and gave them confidence."

Holt Hall, 1988.

Youngsters at Holt Hall in 1988. - Credit: Archant Library

The council said, when selling an asset it was obliged to seek ‘best value’.

It said where the difference between two viable bids is more than £2m, the council cannot accept the lower bid without permission from the secretary of state.