Richard Smith. Architect. RIBA

Community Projects

£3.8M Fakenham Community Campus vision set out in new report

ADAM LAZZARIFriday, November 25, 2011

The proposed £3.8m Fakenham Community Campus will become a landmark presence in Fakenham and the whole of north Norfolk if it becomes a reality. It will benefit people from all walks of life, from pre-school children to elderly and disabled people and could revamp the entire image of Fakenham. It will provide office space for businesses, improve the cultural offering in the area, boost the town’s economy and offer much-needed facilities for young people.These are some of the assertions made in a new report on the proposed redevelopment of a prominent site in the heart of Fakenham, off Oak Street, where Fakenham Community Centre, the Fakenham Connect building, Fakenham Library and a Scout hut currently stand. A business case and feasibility report compiled by project management company Crook De Lyon and an accompanying architectural and design cost summary report produced by Richard Smith Architects give people the first chance to see in detail the vision and practicalities of the Fakenham Community Campus project. The business case and feasibility report states: “The Fakenham Community Campus will be inclusive. It targets pre-school children, young people, older people and those with disabilities, residents of Fakenham and the surrounding villages, tourists and visitors. “It incorporates business use and will create better access to public and voluntary services. “It substantially increases the arts and cultural activities available in the town. It attracts new businesses and becomes an economic driver within the town as well as offering learning/training provision.

“The vision is necessarily ambitious and will create a step change for Fakenham, transforming the site into a vibrant, lively, eco-friendly community campus which will meet a wide range of cultural, community, business, public service and other needs for local people and visitors.”

The report was commissioned by a steering group which includes representatives from the Fakenham Area Partnership, the Fakenham Community Centre Association and other community groups and has been financed by the national Community Builders Fund. It uses the results of a public consultation, which was launched in May, and suggests ways the facility could be used, managed and financed. It also sets out a timetable for the next steps to take the project forward. And, despite the current state of the national economy, the people working on the project believe it will become a reality, with the entire campus forecast to be completed within five years. The plan is to redevelop and refurbish some of the existing buildings on the site and add some new buildings to unify it and make it a cohesive whole.

The existing Fakenham Community Centre would be given a better quality stage and auditorium to attract touring professional theatre companies. The space in the building would be reconstructed to make it more suitable for a range of community events.The updated Fakenham Connect building would feature a reception area and three sound-proofed meeting rooms. Three ground-floor offices are included in the plans as well as a new learning and business centre. A new bar and café in the community centre would provide a hub for the whole campus. There are plans for a special outside gardens and patio area and even an outdoor amphitheatre which could attract tourists and raise the profile of Fakenham. The report claims this would become the only venue in Norfolk that could stage events in the summer and then move them inside if the weather is bad. A new building would be created specifically for youth facilities, as the consultation showed this to be a major priority for people in Fakenham. The report adds: “Fakenham Community Campus is a huge opportunity to be in the forefront of the new ethos and regulatory system supporting people with disabilities.

“This is a key issue for Fakenham due to its population demographic and relatively large population of older people and people with disabilities. “This will improve local provision and, for example, help to move away from bussing people to larger institutions such as the day centre at Holt.”

The report recommends that a charitable trust is set up to bid for funding and oversee the development and eventually the day-to-day running of the campus. “The whole project has been phased over five years or more to complete, but it is possible some building work could be seen within two or three years.” A representative of the co-partner in the project, the Community Centre Association, said: “The community campus plans are ambitious and this is exactly what Fakenham needs.

“It will become a reality if everyone who can volunteer in any way comes forward to give their time and effort to support this project. “I would urge people to come to this meeting and see how they can get involved. “We are currently looking for a new name for the campus which inspires and encapsulates the heart and soul of Fakenham and we want people to come forward with ideas. “We want people in the area to get involved all the way through and to feel a kind of ownership of the campus.”