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Memorial Hall funding hope

PUBLISHED: 19:03 04 June 2010 | UPDATED: 15:57 07 July 2010

Emma Knights

The final piece of the £2.3 million financial jigsaw to fund a major revamp of Dereham's main arts venue could be slotted in next week - giving the town a "fabulous asset for the next 100 years.

The final piece of the £2.3 million financial jigsaw to fund a major revamp of Dereham's main arts venue could be slotted in next week - giving the town a "fabulous asset for the next 100 years."

Breckland councillors are being asked to approve a £250,000 grant for the major refurbishment of Dereham Memorial Hall.

It would give the grade II listed building a complete makeover - including new seating, new purpose built rooms, a courtyard cafe bar and art gallery.

Town mayor Robert Hambidge said: “I think it is quite crucial that we get this money. We have tried absolutely every avenue of funding.”

He added that the revamped hall would be a fabulous asset to the town.

“It will leave a mark on Dereham for the next 100 years,” he said.

Town clerk Tony Needham said: “If Breckland Council approve the funding next week it will be fantastic news, without the grant the project could not go ahead. Funding is extremely tight, the design team and myself are working extremely hard at the moment to ensure the project matches the budget and we are hoping to be able to get everything in place in the next couple of weeks.”

He said if the funding was successful, it was hoped work could start on the Memorial Hall by mid July.

Breckland council officers are recommending that the cabinet approves the funding application at a meeting on Tuesday.

In a report to the committee Breckland officers said: “The Dereham Memorial Hall is a flagship venue for Dereham and the district as a whole. The refurbishment and extension of the hall will enable a greater range of activities to take place with increased participation by Breckland residents and visitors to the area.”

The total project cost is £2,279,887. The report said Dereham Town Council is putting £499,887 towards the project as well as £230,000 from the sale of town council land. It said the town council had also secured a £1.3m loan.

Fifty thousand people are expected to use the revamped hall each year once the project is finished and it is thought 20 organisations will also use the venue each year.

The Memorial Hall was built as a high class carriage factory about 200 years ago. About a century ago it was converted into a cinema and in the 1930s it was also used as a swimming pool and dance hall.

At the end of the second world war it was bought by the East Dereham Urban District Council to be used as a memorial for those who died in the two world wars.

The building's last major refurbishment was in 1949.

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