New group's bid to take over Holt Hall

Holt Hall environmental and outdoor learning centre has been much-loved by families for generations

The future of Holt Hall is yet to be decided.  - Credit: Archant

The natural world is at the heart of a £3.3 million plan for the future of Holt Hall. 

A newly-formed group called Holt Organisation for Learning and Transformation - or HOLT for short - is one of more than 20 which have put forward proposals to Norfolk County Council about how the site - which was a much-loved outdoor education centre for decades - could be run. 

Dr Oliver Springate, one of 12 people in the HOLT group, said: "I feel that our taking on the hall could offer as a wonderful opportunity to strengthen understanding on the need for more balanced environmental management, and especially to promote understanding on climate change and how we can all help address it."

Dr Springate, from Aylsham, is one of two University of East Anglia academics in the group behind the bid.  

Their plan is to preserve Holt Hall as an education venue for children and adults, where the benefits of organic food growing are demonstrated. 

Also in the group is Shelley Folland, a forest-school trained ecologist and co-manager of a organic box scheme.

Ms Folland said: “It would be a privilege to protect and nurture the land surrounding Holt Hall.

"There are wonderful opportunities to sensitively allow people to interact and reconnect with its whole ambience."

VW camper van festival at Holt Hall.

Holt Hall was a much-loved outdoor education centre for decades. - Credit: Colin Finch

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Fellow group member and school teacher Emily Bolton added: “I see this as an opportunity to be able to reach children who are struggling in the system and support them in developing skills for future employment opportunities."

The group said it would aim to operate the site "economically" over the whole year. 

Emily Bolton, a school teacher and member of the group HOLT, which is one party vying to take over Holt Hall. 

Emily Bolton, a school teacher and member of the group HOLT, which is one party vying to take over Holt Hall. - Credit: Supplied

The Conservative-controlled county council voted to sell off the much-loved outdoor education centre in December 2019, despite a public backlash over the move. 

A council spokesperson said a shortlist of eight proposals for Holt Hall were now being looked at, and a decision on the site's future should be made by mid-February. 

The spokesman said: “Following a shortlisting process we are interviewing eight prospective bidders and then we will evaluate their final proposals. This will inform recommendations to the cabinet member for a decision on the preferred bidder.”

Last year, North Norfolk District Council suggested using the site to temporarily house Afghan families fleeing the Taliban, but this idea was rejected by the county council.