September 21 2014 Latest news:
Tuesday, March 11, 2014
Lease-holders at the Green Britain Centre in Swaffham have issued a “hands off” message to their district council landlords, who have floated the idea of converting the landmark building into a hotel.
Breckland Council is exploring ways to maximise the authority’s assets, and the former EcoTech Centre has been identified as a site which could potentially be transformed into a £9m site for leisure and tourism uses.
Senior district councillors have maintained that any proposals for the centre were part of a “what if” discussion as they seek to promote debate on how to accelerate growth in the area with the help of private investors.
But Dale Vince, founder of green energy firm Ecotricity and a trustee of the Green Britain Foundation, said he was shocked that any change of use could be considered, with 20,000 people visiting the “reinvigorated” education, conference and visitor attraction last year.
“Ecotricity has been committed to the centre since we built the windmill here in 1999,” he said. “We feel like it’s part of us.
“There are 85 years left on the lease and we have no intention of surrendering it to Breckland Council who, by their own admission, do nothing to support tourism in the area.”
Mr Vince said the original EcoTech Centre was built with European money in order to provide environmental education and promote green technology. Relaunched as the Green Britain Centre in March 2013, it includes the world’s only climbable wind turbine, the fastest wind powered vehicle in the world and solar technology that tracks the sun.
“We’re committed to ensuring the Green Britain Centre continues to do the job for which it was originally intended,” said Mr Vince.
“We are shocked the council has been putting forward these secretive plans and discussing them with the press without any attempt to contact us beforehand. Our message to Breckland Council is simple – hands off.”
The council wants to use a Local Asset Backed Vehicle (LABV) to investigate potential alternative uses for its properties by combining private sector money and skills with public sector property to increase the financial return.
Mark Kiddle-Morris, executive member for assets at Breckland Council, said: “Throughout this process we have been open, honest and transparent and will continue to be so.
“I would stress that no decisions have been taken on this or any other site involved in the LABV at this stage. The idea of an hotel was merely a “what if” scenario to suggest how the site could possibly be used maximise value.
“Numerous factors come into play when looking at any site but decisions will always be taken on asset management and planning grounds.”