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Your ideas for Dereham Memorial Hall plans

PUBLISHED: 10:56 02 June 2009 | UPDATED: 15:16 07 July 2010

Ideas generated by the public are to be the inspiration and driving force behind an £800,000 revamp of Dereham's Memorial Hall.

Architects met townsfolk on Friday in the last of a series of meetings aimed at giving hall users the chance to contribute their thoughts on possible options for development.

IDEAS generated by the public are to be the inspiration and driving force behind an £800,000 revamp of Dereham's Memorial Hall.

Architects met townsfolk on Friday in the last of a series of meetings aimed at giving hall users the chance to contribute their thoughts on possible options for development.

Armed with the users' ideas, and with a greater knowledge of what the hall means to the town and the problems the current building poses, Jeremy Stacey and Rhona Fleming will now draw up a plan for the first phase of the buildings rejuvenation before consulting the public again.

The inclusive approach to architecture adopted by Jeremy Stacey Architects, based in Beachamwell, is one of the reasons why the town council chose them for the project.

After decades of proposed schemes failing to come to fruition, over the past 12 months Dereham Town Council has been assessing all possible options and funding avenues to breathe life back into the tired building.

The council has now agreed in principle to borrow £500,000, and a successful planning application for a small area of Fleece Meadow means that £800,000 could be made available for the project if the council decides to sell off the parcel of land.

Assistant mayor Lynda Turner said: "It is important that this building is kept for the town because of its history and it is important that it is kept as a facility that everybody can enjoy.

"One of the most important things is getting people involved. It helps gives ownership back to the town."

It is 60 years since the hall, on Norwich Street, was dedicated to the memory of those who died in the two world wars.

But the building has played a significant role in the cultural life of Dereham for almost a century.

It was originally built as a carriage factory in 1808 but was converted into a cinema in the early 1900s.

Later it became a swimming pool and then a dance hall and to this day the pool still lies intact beneath the dance

floor.

Robert Hambridge, who is also on the council's hall steering group, said: "Going forward we want the Memorial Hall to become the centre of Dereham life and we want to make everybody who uses the hall part of this."

During discussions users were asked to come up with good and bad points about the hall.

Many highlighted the building's size, location, space, dance floor, period charm and the fact it was a memorial as being positive.

Among the negative points were the hall's heating and acoustics, kitchen, bar and toilet facilities, and its foyer and entrance.

Ideas to come out of the meeting were that people wanted to keep the ethos of the building while at the same time giving it a more imposing entrance and making it more flexible so that it can become a facility for all.

Further consultation meetings will be announced in due course.

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