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Plans to mothball field centre

PUBLISHED: 08:00 06 April 2010 | UPDATED: 11:16 07 July 2010

Chris Hill

THE planned “mothballing” of Wells Field Studies Centre will be discussed by Norfolk's cabinet today, with members asked to approve a consultation before any closure.

THE planned “mothballing” of Wells Field Studies Centre will be discussed by Norfolk's cabinet on Tuesday, with members asked to approve a consultation before any closure.

Education chiefs have recommended the closure of the popular residential learning centre on Polka Road in favour of investment in a similar centre at Holt Hall, which is considered more financially viable.

The Wells centre can accommodate 30 children and is expect to suffer a 12pc decline in pupil use this year, while Holt Hall has twice the capacity and is expected to see half the reduction in numbers in 2009/10.

At its meeting on Tuesday, Norfolk County Council's cabinet will be asked to agree to focus the authority's residential education at Holt Hall, while exploring alternative uses for the Wells site.

But following a growing campaign by teachers, students and politicians to save the threatened centre, members will also be asked to approve a community consultation on the plans “prior to mothballing”.

A report to the cabinet says: “In developing future plans for this service a major consideration is to ensure that the direct provision of residential field studies opportunities can continue to be part of our environmental education offer.

“To achieve the above, it will be necessary to cease all field study centre operations at Wells. The Centre would not be financially viable even if it operates close to capacity, which it is currently not doing.

“Of the two field studies centres, Holt Hall has a greater potential to become financially viable in the future.

“Members of the cabinet are asked to agree that the council undertake an exploration of possible alternative uses of the centres. This is to include consultation with local communities and other stakeholders, prior to the mothballing of Wells.”

The “alternative uses” for Wells could include community use, wider training purposes in environmental fields or a residential facility for children and young people with particular needs.

The report says the field study courses at Wells are proposed to end at the end of this summer, while Holt Hall could be used for at least two academic years while a full evaluation of its viability can be undertaken.

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