Sudbury: Charities vye for redundant school building

Sudbury mayor Adrian Osborne outside the Uplands Middle School building

Sudbury mayor Adrian Osborne outside the Uplands Middle School building - Credit: Archant

Three charitable organisations are considering taking on a former middle school building in Sudbury, the county council has confirmed.

The future of the Uplands Middle School site has been uncertain since it closed in July as part of the schools reorganisation.

The county explored options for keeping it open as an educational establishment but no interested parties came forward before the deadline.

Town councillors are keen to see the York Road building, which was the old Girls High School, retained for community use.

They also fear that if it the school is boarded up, it could become a target for vandalism.

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At a meeting this week, Suffolk County Council’s business development specialist Mark Parker told Sudbury councillors that three groups had expressed an interest in taking on a short-term lease for the building – the Befriending Scheme, the Stour Valley Vineyard Church and the Bridge Project.

Mr Parker said: “Our first call was to find out if there were any other education uses and none were forthcoming.

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“The council asked us for flexibility and since June, we have been talking to local groups to see if they would be interested in taking on a lease until August 2014.

“During that period, they would have enough time to put together funding plans and demonstrate a viable use for the building.”

The county is seeking one lead group to sign the lease. During the year, parts of the premises would be hired out to other community groups.

Mr Parker continued: “It’s going to be difficult and time-consuming for whoever does it. We are trying to provide a funding package to enable the building to be made available to community groups.

“If they have a sustainable idea to attract the kind of funding they need, then the lease would be extended. If not, we might have to find other uses for the building in the long term.”

The Bridge Project, currently based in Gainsborough Street, provides vocational training, education and employment opportunities for disadvantaged adults in the local area. It also runs a successful mobile hot meals service around Sudbury.

Bridge Project founder Anesta Newson told the EADT the organisation would be happy to collaborate with other groups. She said: “We are looking to extend our catering services so if we were to take the school building on, we would be able to have a larger kitchen, and we could expand our delivery area.

“We would like to open a cookery school, providing training for people who can’t cook or those that need to cook on a budget. We could also offer residential catering courses.”

The county has set a November deadline for the lease to be signed.

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