Boost for Watton and Swaffham youth

YOUNG people in Watton and Swaffham were handed a double holiday boost this week with a £20,000 cash injection for a drop-in centre and news that a new recreation ground will open soon.

YOUNG people in Watton and Swaffham were handed a double holiday boost this week with a £20,000 cash injection for a drop-in centre and news that a new recreation ground will open soon.

Children in Swaffham will be letting their hair down later this month when a £50,000 recreation ground is opened.

The project at Haspalls Road is part of Breckland Council's successful bid to the Big Lottery Fund.

The town council says it was a race against other projects to be included in the scheme, and the recreation ground committee, which had been working hard behind the scenes, helped to make the scheme happen.

New equipment has been installed by Nottingham-based specialist company Proludic.

Meanwhile in Watton, the town council has agreed to stump up £20,000 to help with the opening of a drop-in centre in town. Two local businessmen are hoping to get a £3m scheme off the ground to turn Watton into a hub of sports and leisure excellence.

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In Swaffham, mayor Shirley Matthews, who will be opening the recreation ground on August 20, said: “Swaffham is so lucky to have such a dedicated team of volunteers working on the recreation ground project guided so enthusiastically by the deputy town clerk.

“Our children are our future and it is important that we stimulate their development through play. The rec [recreation ground] is such a special place where they can have fun and feel that this is their part of the town. Our thanks are due to Breckland Council for their advice and support, also our contractors Proludic for installing the equipment on time.”

Community development officer Laura Apps-Green co-ordinated the Breckland collaboration of play projects which is worth almost a quarter of a million pounds to the district. The town council put in £5,000 and received £45,000 from the Big Lottery to make up the total cost of the project.

Lead officer for the project, deputy town clerk Michelle Meyrick who put together the Swaffham section of the grant application, said: “This new play area is a real boost for Swaffham and especially for the young children in the town. The two to eight age range is now well catered for and this is another giant step forward to bring better facilities to the rec.

“The committee has worked very hard and it is good to see their efforts come to fruition. It is just fantastic, I can't wait to see it all in use and hope that parents will come along with their children to the opening on August 20.”

Former mayor and chairman of the recreation ground committee Jerome Stockdale said youngsters in town deserved the best playing opportunities. “This is just part of what we are trying to do to bring the rec up to date,” he added.

The playground will open on Wednesday, August 20, at 3pm.

Councillors in Watton have agreed to allocate £20,000 to help with the drop-in centre.

Local businessmen Paul Adcock and Julian Horn are working hard to get off the ground a £3m scheme to turn Watton into a hub of sports and leisure excellence by creating a drop-in centre for young people as well as indoor facilities and a park on fields near Watton Sports Centre.

The doctor's surgery had been formerly considered by Norwich based Iceni Developments for conversion into 14 flats but in June the two residents managed to secure a 12-month lease for the building in St Giles Road which they now want to turn into a meeting centre for youngsters.

The property could be arranged to offer a variety of facilities including snookers' tables, a café, an inner garden.

The two businessmen previously said they were hoping to buy the surgery with money raised from the sale of a field in Harvey Street. This is in the trusteeship of Watton Town Council which was recently given the green light from the Charity Commission to sell it. It is estimated that the land could fetch over £500,000.

But following a change in plans, Julian and Paul are now looking to raise their own money and form a charitable company to carry forward the project.

Additionally, they are hoping to get a government grant and are asking the public to support their application.

“We are in the process of applying for charitable status for Project Rainbow which will hopefully be dealt with in the next few weeks,” said Julian.

“Notwithstanding the donation from the town council, already over five and a half thousand pounds has come from organisations and individuals, but there is still a long way to go. We would like to know we still have the support of the town in this undertaking and would like to have letters of support to put forward to the potential funders as evidence of support,” he explained.

Laura Eastwood, speaking for the youth council said the drop-in centre would offer youngsters a great opportunity to socialise.

“We organised a series of activities and managed to raise well over £500 for the project,” she added.

Speaking outside the drop-in centre which might open by September, town mayor Paul McCarthy said: “The Council has backed the project from the beginning and has spent an incredible amount of time and work behind the scenes helping both Julian Horn and Paul Adcock to get all the legal procedures in place. The project has also been supported by officers and councillors at both Breckland and Norfolk County Council.

“It is important that the youth of the town feel that their voices are being heard and the centre is somewhere where they can meet their friends and give their parents peace of mind to know that they are in a safe environment.”

In addition to the drop-in centre, Julian and Paul are also looking to open a leisure and activities centre for all ages which would be located within a town park that would include a dog walking area a tree trail jogging track and a lake for canoeing.