Could disused chapel save tax payers thousands by being converted into new offices for Fakenham Town Council?
Some councillors believe the building, in the Queens Road Cemetery, could be turned into an “attractive public facility” for concerts, weddings and events, as well as council offices and a meeting room.
But others are understood to oppose the idea. The council’s accommodation has become a frequent subject of debate at town council meetings, with councillors going into closed session for discussions closed to members of the press and public.
Now sources have told the Times that some consider the council’s current offices, at Fakenham Connect “appalling value”. The council pays a service charge of £7,000 a year and £1,000 in rates for the building, off Oak Street.
Councillor George Acheson believes the council could renovate and extend the chapel with money from its reserves and a 10-year government mortgage. Once repaid, future savings could be passed on to tax payers.
“It is a little known jewel designed by the renowned Victorian architect Thomas Jeckyll,” he said. “Sadly, its barrel-vaulted ceiling now looks down on old council equipment, including a disused tractor trailer.
“In the past it has been vandalised and now, rather neglected, it remains as a cost and a concern for the town council and council tax payers.
“Town councillors wish to preserve this building and some of them have proposed a way of both saving the chapel and in future possibly reducing council tax.”
People using the building could park across the road at Millennium Park. But Dr Acheson admitted there was one potentially controversial side to the idea.
“Whereas a new entrance porch could easily be built over the existing path, the toilets and small office space would have to be built to the north of the chapel over ancient graves,” he added.
“The affected graves are all over 100 years old and no burial would be disturbed though the gravestones would repositioned – possibly against the building itself much as been done in St Peter’s Garden. No modern graves in the cemetery would be affected.”
The chapel, the path and the trees would be illuminated at night and have CCTV.
Fakenham Mayor and town council chairman Adrian Vertigan said: “It’s a fantastic old building, it’s a shame it’s not being used. Personally, I would support it being used as an office but it’s a council decision at the end of the day what we do with it.”
Dr Acheson and councillors in favour of the idea are asking people to let them know their views bgy e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org.