'It's not used by Norfolk schools' - bid to save Holt Hall fails
- Credit: Archant
A bid to force Norfolk County Council to rethink its decision to close Holt Hall has failed.
In December, the council's cabinet agreed to stop providing its outdoor learning services at the 75-acre site in North Norfolk and to move towards selling the building.
The decision was met with outcry, with supporters of the hall criticising the council's consultation process and warning the greatest losers from the loss of Holt Hall would be the county's young people.
In a bid to save the hall, Labour and Liberal Democrat councillors called for a special meeting to put pressure on the Conservative-controlled council to rethink its controversial decision.
at the special meeting held on Monday, January 11, councillors heard from those in support and against the motion.
Steve Morphew, who proposed the motion, along with Steffan Aquarone, outlined and criticised NCC's case for closing Holt Hall and warned the "crucial work of outdoor learning" would be "diminished at a time when it is most important" if the facility was closed.
Mr Morphew said: "There's a great deal of commitment and a great will to keep Holt Hall for the young people of our county and making it financially viable.
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"The Friends of Holt Hall have shown leadership in how they have gone about this. Now is the time for the council and cabinet to show leadership in responding to the opportunities Norfolk want us to embrace."
Other councillors speaking in support of the motion included Jess Barnard, who said the council "was taking the race to the bottom approach despite seeing how harmful it was to young people".
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Kim Clipsham highlighted the benefit of outdoor learning on mental health and urged the council to support young people and the NHS by retaining Holt Hall.
She said: "Children are the future of and NCC should be investing in them and not taking away from them."
And, Sandra Squires urged councillors to consider what they wanted to be remembered for and whether it was "creating opportunities for Norfolk's children or making a fast buck" where it could.
John Fisher, cabinet member for NCC's children's services said he was "amazed" the issue of Holt Hall had been brought to a special meeting.
Mr Fisher said he "noted" statements of supporters of Holt Hall read out by Mr Aquarone but felt that it was only North Norfolk residents "who were in any way bothered" and in response read testimonials in support of other outdoor learning facilities in Norfolk.
Mr Fisher said: "Holt Hall is not used by Norfolk schools, unfortunately: the statistics do not warrant the extra expenditure, do not warrant retaining Holt Hall,.
"They in fact indicate that Norfolk schools, certainly some of the schools from more deprived areas, are not attending Holt Hall. NCC council taxpayers are in fact sponsoring independent schools visiting Holt Hall."
He said the council "realised the importance of outdoor learning" which was why the council was not stopping it and planned to become an enabler.
Andrew Proctor, leader of NCC also spoke against the motion, saying he felt there had been an "appropriate consultation" and that "cabinet did the right thing".
He said: "This decision has been coming for quite some time, so let's look at the facts and take out the emotion and the politics.
"Cabinet took a good decision in all the circumstances, the cabinet took a perfectly reasonable decision in all the circumstances."
Following the debate, the motion was defeated by a majority of 44 to 25.
Following the vote, Steffan Aquarone expressed his disappointment.
He said: "What this morning showed us is that the Tories continue to be intractable in the way they make decisions, despite the recent lesson from the High Court.
"They seemed annoyed that this matter was even being debated - yet as we heard, it's of huge importance to the people of Norfolk."