New projects aim to help youngsters

DETAILED work is underway on two major projects to provide jobs and homes for young people in north Norfolk.The Benjamin Foundation wants to build a social enterprise “hub” in North Walsham with outreach “spokes” as far afield as Dereham, offering young people training and properly-paid employment.

DETAILED work is underway on two major projects to provide jobs and homes for young people in north Norfolk.

The Benjamin Foundation wants to build a social enterprise “hub” in North Walsham with outreach “spokes” as far afield as Dereham, offering young people training and properly-paid employment.

And the charity is also planning a green-build project, providing eco-friendly and affordable homes in locations including villages.

The initiatives are designed to help local youngsters, many with no qualifications, troubled backgrounds or special needs, who cannot find work or homes in the areas where their families have lived for generations.

The enterprise project will include a hotel, which could also provide respite care for those with disabilities, offering youngsters training in fields including catering, care and management.

Richard Draper, chief executive of the foundation, said they were looking at the former Northrepps Country Cottage restaurant as a possible enterprise venture outreach building.

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And they are working with the Camphill Communities Trust, at Thornage, near Holt, on a new horticultural project. Camphill provides opportunities for people with special needs

The green-build project would also give young people the chance to learn traditional, vernacular, building skills, said Mr Draper.

The initial project would see about 12 to 15 homes built in areas including edge-of-village plots. They would provide both move-on and permanent accommodation and be aimed at creating mixed communities.

One possible site for some of the homes and the enterprise hub could be the former Marricks Wire Ropes land, on Cromer Road and Bradfield Road, North Walsham, which is designated for employment use, said Mr Draper.

But the foundation must first wait for the outcome of this month's public enquiry into an appeal by Norfolk Homes whose application to build about 80 homes there was refused last November by North Norfolk District Council.

Green-build homes would use local suppliers and labour and would be carbon-neutral both during building and when finished, said Mr Draper.

They would incorporate all the best energy-saving technology but building costs should be no higher than those of a conventional home.

And their energy efficiency would mean that householders paid only about £40 a year for their combined heat, light and power.

Consultancy firm Innovas had completed an encouraging feasibility study into the projects and was now working on a business plan, said Mr Draper.

The foundation's partners in the schemes include the East of England Development Agency (EEDA) and the North Norfolk Community Partnership.

Mr Draper hopes that first bricks will be laid in 2009-2010 and he is not worried by the current economic downturn.

“In some ways it's quite a good time to go into the market because properties and sites are cheaper,” he said.

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