Councillors vote against giving public a say over Holt Hall future

A decision on the future of Holt Hall, which could be facing closure, will be made next month.

A decision on the future of Holt Hall, which could be facing closure, will be made next month. - Credit: Archant

Councillors have voted against giving members of the public a say on the future of one of the council’s outdoor learning centres.

Mike Smith-Clare, Labour county councillor and spokesman on childrens services, said his party was n

Mike Smith-Clare, Labour county councillor and spokesman on childrens services, said his party was not convinced the support package would be sufficient. Picture: Archant - Credit: Archant

Last month, it was announced that Norfolk County Council is considering selling off Holt Hall, its second largest provider of residential learning trips of schools, with officers arguing the council could no longer afford to run it.

The announcement triggered outcry from people supporting the centre and opposition councillors, with a petition against the proposed closure attracting more than 5,000 signatures.

However, a cross-party motion tabled by the Labour and Liberal Democrat groups at County Hall aimed to postpone the council’s decision and open up the debate to the public, through a two-week public consultation.

Mike Smith-Clare, children’s services lead for the Labour group, who tabled the motion, said: “If there was ever a time to protect outdoor education centres it is now.


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“For decades, Holt Hall has offered children the opportunity to expand their knowledge through safe, professionally-managed and delivered experiential learning. And for generations it has been an historic haven for building relationships, understanding and new horizons. To sell this resource off would be ludicrous.”

The motion was seconded by Sarah Butikofer, Lib Dem county councillor for Holt and leader of North Norfolk Council, who said: “Outdoor education works. Indeed, we are told the groups which present the most difficult challenges benefit most from this provision and Holt Hall is an exceptional provider of this.

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“Selling off the family silver only fills a financial hole once. Selling and using reserves are a short-sighted and delusional answer to the problem.”

But John Fisher, the Conservative-led council’s cabinet member for children’s services, argued that the facility was being used by less than 10pc of the county’s schools and that had to be taken into account.

He said: “Yes, we all support outdoor learning but there are only seven percent of schools using Holt Hall (for residential visits). That’s 42 out of 418 and shows 93pc prefer to go elsewhere.

“I can assure councillors that any decision on further centres will be consulted on and full facts gained prior to any decisions.

The motion calling for a consultation was voted down, with the future of the centre due to be discussed further by the council’s cabinet next month.

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