‘Hands off’ – Ecotricity’s warning to Breckland Council over Green Britain Centre

The Green Britain Centre, Swaffham. Picture: Ian Burt The Green Britain Centre, Swaffham. Picture: Ian Burt

Tuesday, March 11, 2014
8:03 AM

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.

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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.”

3 comments

  • Dear DR, I think the answer to your first question can be found at 'tripadvisor' and elsewhere. As far as being brainwashed, well, you would be the expert but they are presented with the facts and allowed to make up their own minds. To your second, what is wrong with going simply for the unrivaled view? To your last, the wood framed building was a leader in its field and paved the way for sustainable, low carbon construction. John, I'm not sure what plant Dale Vince is on, perhaps a clematis? To many the Swaffham turbines are a wonderful landmark and a visible proof that clean energy, without reliance on hydrocarbon dependency is a possible way forward, I note that the town council has given consent to the erection of two further turbines by a vote of 11 to 1 - excellent news for anyone who cares about the future of our little planet (note the letter 'e' which distinguishes a body orbiting a star from an organic growth).

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    Thoreauwasright

    Friday, March 14, 2014

  • I wonder how many people really visit the centre of their own volition and how many are school children dragged along to be brainwashed about the subsidy -sorry -wind farm. Or how many just go to do the climb to get a good view of the countryside? I said at the time that the centre was about the least green thing I could imagine, the construction was a scandalous waste of money and it is an eyesore. If an hotel would provide more revenue and more jobs then it would make sense for the electricity company to build a really green renewable building for visitors out of wood not acres of glass and steel

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    Daisy Roots

    Tuesday, March 11, 2014

  • What plant is Dale Vince on…. So he built a ‘windmill’ a Swaffham, did he – not a damn great big industrial wind turbine, blotting the landscape for miles around and receiving subsidies from the tax payer which eventually end up in his pocket! (see the Sunday Times Rich List) Oh, and what another surprise, the so called EcoTech centre was built with European money – yet another waste of our taxes.

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    Norfolk John

    Tuesday, March 11, 2014

The views expressed in the above comments do not necessarily reflect the views of this site

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