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Corn Hall cracks hit revamp project

PUBLISHED: 08:46 27 November 2008 | UPDATED: 10:48 12 July 2010

SERIOUS cracks in the brickwork of Diss Corn Hall have jolted plans to refurbish it as a leading arts and cultural venue.

The problem, in the rear wall, was identified by a county council historic buildings expert who has suggested that investigation might mean the listed building should be placed on the "at risk" register.

SERIOUS cracks in the brickwork of Diss Corn Hall have jolted plans to refurbish it as a leading arts and cultural venue.

The problem, in the rear wall, was identified by a county council historic buildings expert who has suggested that investigation might mean the listed building should be placed on the “at risk” register.

Glyn Walden, spokesman for Corn Hall working group, said the news would raise the financial stakes on the project.

“We knew the next two years would be tight financially, and South Norfolk Council has said it would consider an investment grant to prepare grant applications on submission of a robust business plan.

“However the additional work needed to correct these defects will raise the financial bar considerably. Diss is the gateway to the Waveney Valley and is destined to be the cultural centre for south Norfolk and north Suffolk, but the situation nationally will mean we will have to work even harder.

“The alternative may mean closure which would turn the area into a cultural wasteland.”

Project co-ordinator Sue Reeves has submitted an application, on behalf of the town council, seeking close on £3million in grant aid from the Heritage Lottery Fund. This does not include the potential costs of remedial works to the wall.

“We literally only knew about the cracks two weeks ago and until they are examined for movement nobody really has a clue about how serious it is,” she said.

But, although the 2012 Olympics is taking most of the lottery funds, she is confident there is money to be found.

The Heritage Lottery Fund has arranged to meet her on December 10 to discuss the ambitious proposals.

“The HL fund is requesting further evidence of the importance of the Corn Hall to the heritage of the people of Diss and surrounding villages. I would be most grateful if residents could let me know by email or letter what the Corn Hall means to them as part of their heritage', she said.

“Applying for funds is time consuming. As well as the lottery fund, we need to apply to other funding sources. For example, South Norfolk requires a business plan with three years' financial assessments for the development period; a risk assessment; evidence of the public's views; and evidence of an eight per cent return on their investment.

“As well as funding for the post of co-ordinator, South Norfolk Council suggested money for an events manager - to maximise profitable use of the Corn Hall. We also need legal and financial advice and the cost of a full survey. Ideally, we should like funding for a professional design team,” she added.

Meanwhile the intention is to press ahead with the formation of a friends charitable group to take the project forward.

The first meeting is scheduled for early in the New Year, and South Norfolk MP Richard Bacon and Central Suffolk MP Michael Lord have both pledged their support.

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