TV stars open new south Norfolk community centre
Stephanie BrooksA south Norfolk building, which began life as a chapel before being transformed into a school, has now begun the next chapter of its existence as a bustling community centre.Stephanie Brooks
A south Norfolk building, which began life as a chapel before being transformed into a school, has now begun the next chapter of its existence as a bustling community centre.
The Pennoyer Centre, in Pulham St Mary, near Diss, opened its doors to the public for the first time yesterday.
The special day marked the end of a five- year effort by volunteers to turn the derelict building, which had stood empty for more than 20 years, into a thriving centre for community groups, adult education classes, businesses and private functions.
The �1.6m project involved the construction of a modern extension on to the former Victorian school, which also encompasses a 15th century guild chapel.
The privilege of cutting the ribbon was given to BBC Look East weathergirl Julie Reinger and her husband, BBC Radio Norfolk breakfast show presenter Chris Goreham.
The couple, who are expecting their first child together in October, said they were bowled over by the facility.
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'I can't believe the transformation. I first came here four years ago wearing a fetching hard hat. You could definitely see the potential but it was in desperate need of some help. It was crumbling and looking sorry for itself,' said Julie.
Chris added: 'I hope the people in Pulham realise how lucky they are. A lot of work has gone into this. There are many villages in Norfolk who would love something like this particularly now in hard times when you have pubs and post offices - those centres of communities - disappearing.'
Sheila King, chairman of the Pennoyer Centre, said: 'It conveyed the wrong message about the village. There was a derelict building in the middle which said the village did not care. That was the worst thing. The historic value was lost on many people.'