Breckland Council accused of ‘double standards’ over tourism

Vanessa Scott of Stratton's Hotel in Swaffham. Picture: Matthew Usher. Vanessa Scott of Stratton's Hotel in Swaffham. Picture: Matthew Usher.

Rosa McMahon rosa.mcmahon@archant.co.uk
Wednesday, February 26, 2014
9:41 AM

A hotelier and tourism champion has accused a district council of “double standards” after it suggested the Green Britain Centre could be converted into a hotel.

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

The former EcoTech Centre in Swaffham could be transformed into a £9m site for leisure and tourism uses, as part of ideas floated by Breckland Council as they explore ways to maximise their assets.

The authority stopped its funding for tourism in 2008 and has said it is “not something the council delivers as a service”.

A senior Breckland councillor made it clear that any proposals for the centre were part of a “what if” discussion, and said the council continues to support the tourism industry.

But Vanessa Scott, owner of Strattons Hotel and chairman of Swaffham Tourism Association, criticised the idea of a hotel on the edge of the A47.

“I do find it double standards that a developer could develop it as a hotel,” she said.

“The irony is that the council that is proposing it has always said they ‘don’t do’ tourism.

“The hotel isn’t promoting it – it’s working against the businesses that are already here.”

The Brecks Partnership which aimed to boost visitor numbers to areas around Brandon, Mildenhall, Swaffham, Thetford and Watton was dissolved in December after financial backing from Norfolk County Council and Breckland collapsed.

The scheme helped bring in £213m in tourism revenue and helped raise £3.3m for rural development projects.

Mrs Scott said Breckland had failed to support tourism by not contributing to Visit Norfolk’s promotional pot – with areas like North Norfolk giving as much as £7,200.

“Breckland should be promoting the Green Britain Centre as a tourism destination, not building a big hotel which will take away [custom] from hotels in the town,” she said.

“Tourism isn’t about B&Bs and hotels. It’s about the bigger picture of marketing the area and putting money in to the rural economy. If Breckland want to develop on a piece of land, that’s not supporting tourism. They haven’t seen the importance or relevance of tourism.”

The council wants to use a Local Asset Backed Vehicle (LABV) to investigate potential alternative uses for the Green Britain Centre by combining private sector money and skills with public sector property to accelerate growth in the area and increase the financial return.

Mark Kiddle-Morris, executive member for assets at Breckland, said: “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 to maximise value. Breckland recognises the contribution tourism makes to the local economy and continues to support the tourism industry through various projects such as Grants for Growth. However, the promotion of Breckland as a tourism destination is not something the council delivers as a service.”

What do you think? Email rosa.mcmahon@archant.co.uk

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