Wereham hall campaigners prepare for final lottery push, though some residents question project scale

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Organisers of the bid to build a new village hall in Wereham are hoping to secure planning permission before making their final pitch for Lottery funding next month.

The campaign has already secured a development grant, but still needs another £650,000 to become reality.

A formal planning application has been submitted to West Norfolk Council and officials have indicated they aim to make a decision by early April.

But some villagers have questioned the scale of the proposed project, though it appears to have the support of most residents.

Project leaders have spent several years developing and fundraising for the scheme to build a new, modern hall to replace the current structure, which dates back to the First World War.

The existing hall will be demolished if a replacement facility is built.

The campaign received a £28,000 development grant from the Big Lottery Fund in December.

And Victoria Gray, chairman of the hall’s management committee, said: “Following the award of development funding, Parsons & Whittley Architects have taken our design brief and have designed an exciting, exemplar community hub that is fit for all.

“We are expecting to secure planning permission in advance of our final stage three bid to the BIG Lottery Fund at the end of April.”

The application has already received dozens of comments on the West Norfolk Council planning website.

But, although all appear to agree that a new hall is needed, a small minority has opposed this scheme, arguing the proposed building is too large and inappropriate for the surrounding conservation area.

One of them, Bertram Vince, described the design as “overpowering” and said other villages were struggling to keep their halls going.

However, project officials say the hall has been specially designed to keep operating costs as low as possible and make it affordable for all groups to use it.

Mrs Gray added: “The project team has undertaken three years of consultation with the residents of Wereham and surrounding villages via surveys, focus groups and public consultations to identify which activities people want to improve their lives.”