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No decision on Whitlingham and Holt Hall fate, councillors say

PUBLISHED: 06:37 11 September 2020 | UPDATED: 17:26 11 September 2020

Holt Hall. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Holt Hall. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

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Council leaders have insisted that no decision has been taken to permanently close Holt Hall and Whitlingham Adventure, with a review into their futures continuing.

John Fisher, Norfolk County Council cabinet member for children's services. Pic: Norfolk County Council.John Fisher, Norfolk County Council cabinet member for children's services. Pic: Norfolk County Council.

Norfolk County Council’s review of its role in Whitlingham Adventure and Holt Hall, both used as outdoor education centres, was launched earlier this year – but was put on hold because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Both sites were closed in March due to Covid-19 and, at a meeting this week, the Conservative-controlled cabinet at County Hall was asked if a decision had been taken to not re-open them.

Labour county councillor Colleen Walker sought answers about what importance the cabinet placed on outdoor learning and whether the centres had closed their doors permanently.

John Fisher, cabinet member for children’s services, said consultation was continuing. He said schools had responded and the council was working with staff at the centres over the consultation.

Norfolk county councillor Colleen Walker. PHOTO BY SIMON FINLAYNorfolk county councillor Colleen Walker. PHOTO BY SIMON FINLAY

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But he said: “I can assure that there is no intention for Holt Hall and Whitlingham to be closed for good and I’m not quite sure where councillor Walker has got that interpretation from.

“In fact, I can just add that Whitlingham, at the moment, is being used by Trowse school as part of their normal school premises while they are needing extra space and while we are slightly behind in the rebuild programme for Trowse school.

“So Whitlingham is, in fact, open as part of Trowse school at the moment.”

Mr Fisher had previously said that both centres were running at a loss and putting a strain on other services.

The review prompted fears from Christine Marshall, former head of Holt Hall, that the county council would sell the building, which generations of Norfolk children have been to for activity days and overnight stays.

Mr Fisher told the cabinet meeting: “Following a return from over 90pc of Norfolk schools, approximately 4pc expressed some concern about the continued closure of Holt Hall and Whitlingham for the forthcoming term.

“Holt Hall remains closed therefore and we are ensuring the outdoor learning advice and guidance is focused on schools and their sites for safe learning.”


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