Several groups using Reepham Town Hall, including the kurling, line dancing and gardening clubs, as well as a dance school, have expressed reservations over the nursery school’s proposal to move from Stimpson’s Piece.
Residents of Back Street and Church Street have also raised concerns about a possible increase in noise and traffic if the nursery were to relocate to the town hall, in addition to the loss of the building as a community facility.
However, others have supported the nursery’s proposal, saying that Reepham needs decent nursery provision, and that Stimpson’s Piece pavilion could be more widely utilised, including public use of the toilets and the provision of refreshments.
Addressing this week’s meeting of Reepham Town Council, town hall users said that while they recognise the nursery needs suitable premises, any decision should not have a negative effect on other groups, especially those with older members who live in the town centre and can easily walk to the venue.
Rebecca Henman of the Dereham-based Centre Stage Performing Arts School, who runs a dance class on Saturday, added that the sprung wood floor in the town hall is “hugely invaluable”.
However, councillors pointed out that the town hall has no parking, unlike Stimpson’s Piece, which could encourage more users if the nursery moved out.
It might also be possible to install new flooring in the pavilion that would suit user groups’ needs, as well as relocate the audio-visual facilities currently in place at the town hall.
Reepham Nursery School manager Rachael Jones told the meeting that the nursery is currently not sustainable in the long term.
She said working parents want to drop their children off earlier and pick them up later five days a week and the nursery at present cannot meet such demands operating in a shared space, especially when Covid regulations require extensive cleaning between user groups, as well as various safeguarding issues.
Responding to criticism that the clubs using the town hall had not been consulted, town council chairman Paul Mitchell pointed out that no decision had been made and said a public meeting would be held if the council decided to move forward with the proposal.
He noted that the town hall is currently running at a loss with only 15 hours of use a week. Stimpson’s Piece pavilion is also loss-making and is “a hugely underused resource” that some residents have described as “looking like a working men’s club”.
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