08:00 8 May 2022
Tom Green, Chairman of the Friends of Holt Hall, shares his views on the County Council’s sale of Holt Hall to a private bidder.
Over the past two years, Friends of Holt Hall has worked tirelessly with a number of professional and experienced potential buyers in the field of education to produce business plans for a viable and vibrant future for learning. residential and daytime outdoor and environmental at Holt Hall.
These plans included new employment and business opportunities for Holt and North Norfolk. These were all rejected in favor of a more substantial offer.
If the property ends up in the hands of a private buyer, any public benefits expected will likely be lost.
I am neither a politician nor an activist, but president of the Friends of Holt Hall.
Trustees of this long-established charity supporting the outdoor learning work of Norfolk Education include those who have lived or worked at Holt Hall.
All have witnessed the transformative effect and service that school visits to the Hall have provided to generations of Norfolk children.
Once council made the decision to dispose of this superb public asset, we sought to ensure that its rich legacy, developed over decades by successive Holt Hall staff, would not be entirely lost.
Various articles on the sale give undeserved insight into the council’s decision, with the only possible crumb of comfort coming in the Holt Chronicle in a statement from Holt Regional Councilor Eric Vardy saying he will “work hard to find a positive outcome for the children of North Norfolk’.
Hopefully, he will do better than many others who have tried to ensure that money from asset stripping is properly ring-fenced and not lost to the general purse.
Like many others in the Holt area concerned about the loss of this valuable resource, we have significant professional experience in education, as well as the mental health and wellness needs of young people.
There is now a further opportunity for places like Holt Hall to support the proposed new GCSE in natural history, as well as preparing young people worried about climate change.
Holt Hall, as we and others have demonstrated, but seemingly on deaf ears, could have been a hub of best practices for sustainable growth as we face climate and environmental crises. .
In the context of Holt Hall, remote Norfolk County Council has demonstrated little knowledge of these aspects, or even a willingness to engage seriously in partnership initiatives to help local communities thrive.
They have chosen to argue that they must accept the highest bidder. This was not adequately clarified in our discussions with them.
Our commitment to the work of Holt Hall, as evidenced by the Friends of Holt Hall Scholarship program for underprivileged children, has been entirely focused on supporting people. it is wrong for council officials to imply that disappointment at the sale to a private buyer is based on ‘close ties to the building’
Feedback from schools has shown that Holt Hall is perfectly suited for residential courses, but the council now curiously claims that a massive maintenance bill appears to be needed.
Good routine maintenance in the recent past could have avoided this. Our own carefully costed plans for the entire site and those of other potential buyers have demonstrated that better and more imaginative use of the entire estate would have more than covered any perceived financial shortfall.
Unfortunately, a county council, seemingly dominated by financial concerns but willing to spend millions on infrastructure and administrative projects, continues to lack the imagination for creative cross-departmental or community initiatives.
Here we have a gem of a small estate, designated as a county wildlife site and adjacent to a thriving urban community and schools.
Having provided educational and recreational opportunities to the local and wider Norfolk community for many decades, it seems its days as a once treasured public asset are finally numbered.