New initiative to restore old buildings

Buildings in north Norfolk could be given a new lease of life since the district has been chosen to take part in a government initiative aiming to revitalise our high streets.

Buildings in north Norfolk could be given a new lease of life since the district has been chosen to take part in a government initiative aiming to revitalise our high streets.

North Norfolk District Council (NNDC) will be given extra help to bring some of its underused or forgotten buildings out of retirement and transfer the ownership to communities.

The council is one of 22 authorities to be chosen as a 'demonstration area' for the scheme which has already seen another 50 districts, including west Norfolk and the Forest Heath area of Cambridgeshire, benefit over the past two years.

Sheila Oxtoby, NNDC's deputy chief executive, said the authority had been chosen based on its proposals to rejuvenate Wells. The 'Wells for the Future' plan outlines a number of possible improvements including a project which would see the Maltings transformed into a theatre, museum, gallery and craft market.

Mrs Oxtoby said the knowledge gained from the help offered by the government could be used in a number of towns across north Norfolk. She said: 'The bid was focused on Wells but the learning from this could be replicated and would be applicable across the district.

'It's about having the support and understanding how we can better use our assets to the benefit of the community.'

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Mrs Oxtoby said in the future NNDC would look at other areas in the district to see which towns could benefit from similar schemes.

Communities secretary Hazel Blears, who is behind the initiative, said people tended to think taking control of a community building would be too difficult. She added: 'We want to change the odds in their favour and make sure more people from across the country are able to take part and recycle local buildings.'

Buildings can be handed over as gifts to community groups, sold for prices which are below their market values or kept off the market while groups secure funding for potential projects.

The 22 councils can apply for a share of a �70,000 'technical aid fund' to help them tackle any obstacles that may arise when trying to transfer the ownership of their buildings.

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