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Memorial hall costs

PUBLISHED: 13:33 05 March 2008 | UPDATED: 14:29 07 July 2010

Nearly £80,000 has been spent over 15 years coming up with ideas on how to revamp one of Dereham's landmark buildings, it has been revealed.

Dereham's Memorial Hall is far from derelict but town bosses have been plotting schemes from turning it into a £6m performing arts centre with 400 seats to more modest revamps for the last 15 years.

Nearly £80,000 has been spent over 15 years coming up with ideas on how to revamp one of Dereham's landmark buildings, it has been revealed.

Dereham's Memorial Hall is far from derelict but town bosses have been plotting schemes from turning it into a £6m performing arts centre with 400 seats to more modest revamps for the last 15 years.

In that time £80,000 has been spent on a £45,000 project appraisal, £3,600 of architect's drawings and a £30,000 project manager, mostly paid for from Lottery funds.

But the hall itself, in Norwich Street, while having had recent improvements, still awaits major works.

And Dereham Town councillors have also agreed to a price hike of 15pc on hiring out the hall, which was said to be losing £36,000 a year as fuel bills had rocketed, at a town council meeting last week.

At that meeting Robert Hambidge said: "I don't think with the state of the hall we have got the guts to ask for an increase."

Michael Fanthorpe said the hall should be closed until improvement work is done.

Councillors were told a project group had met once and would be meeting again next week to "chew the fat" over the future of the hall.

They said the cash spent was money well spent and the town council's latest £11,000 plan for the hall was an audit to find out exactly what Dereham wants and needs in terms of a venue as well as test performances.

A statement from the council said: “All of these pieces of work produced valuable results which we are now building on. We wouldn't be in the strong position we are now in if it wasn't for this previous work.

“So through the careful application of the town Council's own resources and taking maximum advantage of external funding we are obtaining best value for money for the people of Dereham.”

Mayor John Gretton added: “It has taught us that an over ambitious scheme is not feasible.”

The council has also been working hard to bring the hall up to a better standard for its users, which include the operatic society of Dereham and an auctioneer.

This work has been carried out by its caretaker with cash from its maintenance budget.

Work redecorating the ladies toilets, sorting out the heating system and re-varnishing the main floor has been carried out and bringing the kitchen back into use after it was condemned and plans to fit a new urinal in the gents are under way.

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