The old fire station in Downham which will become a heritage centre.

The final piece of the financial jigsaw has fallen into place and Downham Market’s Heritage Centre is on track.

The town’s former fire station will be transformed after nine years of planning.

The final £60,000 needed for the £650,000 project has come from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF).

Downham’s heritage society has been raising funds to convert the Priory Road building into a resource centre and it will be called Discover Downham.

Work is due to start on March 23 and should take around six months. South West Norfolk MP Elizabeth Truss is set to visit today.

Chairman of the heritage society trustees, David Flower, said he was delighted that the project was coming to fruition.

“I am looking forward to the doors opening at the new facility which will enhance the town,” he said.

The HLF initially awarded £386,300 towards the £650,000 cost of the scheme.

A variety of fundraising activities, other grants and contributions left the project short of the target and the HLF has come-up with the remaining £60,000.

Discover Downham will house the heritage society’s extensive collection relating to the area. There  will also be a new kitchen and toilet and a meeting space available for hire by the community and it should be open next spring.

Along with the fundraising and HLF funds, money has also come from WREN (a non-profit making organisation which distributes grants from environmental tax credits), the Tesco Charity Trust, Fitzmaurice Trust, Pennycress Trust, Paul Bassham Charitable Trust, Garfield Weston Foundation, Charles Hayward Foundation and the Geoffrey Watling Charity.

“We are also very grateful to the town council which offered us the use of the building at a nominal rent,” said Mr Flower.

The centre will act as a central hub for the area and will signpost other attractions for visitors and residents.

It is hoped that during the building work, there will be open days for members of the public to see the work progressing.

The core team of volunteers will work with a part-time learning officer and an administrator to create a schools’ programme, reminisence package for care homes, town trail, themed activities and events.

A selection of the heritage society’s collection of pictures, documents and artefacts relating to the area will remain on show at the temporary home in Downham Town Hall until the new facility is open.

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