Countess of Euston officially opens the new sports hall at the Victory Sports Ground in Bury St Edmunds

The official opening of the new South Lee School sports hall at the Victory Ground in Bury by the Co

The official opening of the new South Lee School sports hall at the Victory Ground in Bury by the Countess of Euston. - Credit: Archant

A “fantastic” new sports hall has been officially opened in Bury St Edmunds as thanks were given to a headteacher who is stepping down and was pivotal to the project.

Today, the sports facility - hailed as one of the finest in East Anglia - was formally opened at the Victory Sports Ground in Nowton Road by Clare, the Countess of Euston.

The £2.1million project includes the sports hall, for use by South Lee School and the community, and a new community cricket pavilion for Bury St Edmunds Cricket Club (BSECC).

The scheme has been in the pipeline for more than eight years and its completion was thanks to many organisations and individuals working together.

David Barker, vice chairman of governors at South Lee School and president of BSECC, paid tribute to Derek Whipp, headteacher of South Lee School, for the “terrific work” he has done for the school over 22 years, almost 18 as head.

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He said Mr Whipp, who is retiring from headship at the end of the spring term, had identified the school needed a sports hall in the next stage of its development, and the journey began in May 2007.

Mr Barker said it was a “fantastic sports facility and fantastic sports ground”. He added: “It is a terrific school. The sports hall adds a new dimension to it. I believe the school has the potential to go to even higher heights than it is now, and the best is still to come.”

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In turn, Mr Whipp paid tribute to the “determination” of Mr Barker, who was a driving force of the project. “David gently applied his influence in the right quarters. He knows a lot of people,” he said.

St Edmundsbury Borough Council, which owned the ground, decided to sell it to a Community Interest Company made up of the principal users, BSECC, Sporting 87 Football Club and South Lee School.

Mr Whipp said this sale has helped to “safeguard” the land for sport.

Others thanked included Paul Whittaker, chairman of BSECC, who secured £250,000 from the England and Wales Cricket Board towards the project.

Mr Barker said the appeal for funds saw donations from 120 firms, local authorities, charities and individuals, including children who gave up their pocket money.

Lady Euston said: “This is such as amazing facility.”

The architects for the project were MS2, based in Bury, and the hall was built by Barnes Construction.

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