Could Swaffham’s Green Britain Centre become a hotel?

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

Wednesday, February 19, 2014
2:01 PM

Ambitions to turn a pioneering centre for renewable energy into a hotel have been described as “disturbing and morally wrong” by its chairman.

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The Green Britain Centre, formerly Ecotech, opened in Swaffham in 1999 as a centre of education and research into green issues.

Its wind turbine was the world’s first to create megawatt energy and the viewing platform designed by legendary architect Sir Norman Foster is the only one in world.

But in a document seen by this newspaper, site owners Breckland District Council says the centre is “under-utilised” and has potential as a hotel instead, creating 408 jobs.

The authority believes a completed hotel at the site could be worth £9.5m – but they say “consideration would will need to be given to possible noise generated by the wind turbine”.

Ian Monson, chairman of the centre and a Norfolk County Councillor, said he was shocked to learn about the proposal and said it would be a “crying shame” if the education centre were lost.

“It should be kept as a public building, that’s the moral side of it,” he said. “It’s far more important to have it as a building of service to the public than to be a privately-run hotel.

“The Green Britain foundation is a charitable organisation who have put an enormous amount of money in to the centre and building it up into an organisation for education and exploring green issues. So to have all of this lost by thinking of building a hotel would be very sad.”

Breckland want to use a Local Asset Backed Vehicle (LABV) to achieve maximum value for its assets, by combining private sector money and skills with public sector property and land to accelerate growth in the area and increase the financial return.

The authority has put the centre on its list of top 28 sites to be regenerated by a private partner over the next two decades.

But Mr Monson said he was concerned the centre was being used “as bait” to entice a company to invest a multi-million pound figure in the scheme.

Breckland’s executive member for assets and strategic development, Mark Kiddle-Morris, said the LABV would generate cash to protect frontline services which are being made vulnerable because of central government cuts.

He said if the contractor could come up with an idea for the Green Britain Centre, then the authority would consider it.

“It’s about weighing up the value financially or as far as education,” he said. “My job is to get the best financial value out of what Breckland owns.

“All of these things will be looked at very carefully. If it was a hotel it would be worth millions and millions – but actually it may do a better job doing what it’s doing. That’s the weigh-up.

“It’s an asset we own. It doesn’t mean we are to take the windmill down.”

17 comments

  • The Green Britain Centre is an educational facility providing excellent learning opportunities for people of all ages from all over the country. It is unique. Another hotel in Swaffham is not needed and would, in all probability, be unsustainable as well as leading to possible job losses from the hospitality trade in the town itself. I imagine there would be a justifiable outcry if Camden Council decided to convert the British Museum into a hotel and I would like to think that Breckland council can see the enormous value of such an amenity to present and future generations compared to the temporary financial gain acquired by selling it.

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    Thoreauwasright

    Wednesday, February 19, 2014

  • Another fine example, to date, of how a council use public money to fund pet projects which are quickly recognised as white elephants. I note Cllr Monson is behind this particular one just as he is for the incinerator. I also note that Kiddle-Morris calls the windturbine a windmill!! Bless his little cotton socks, do we need any further evidence of how little this man understands modern technologies.

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    Canary Boy

    Wednesday, February 19, 2014

  • Another thing to thank the Tory government for.

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    KeithS

    Wednesday, February 19, 2014

  • Yay! After 3 comments were blocked, this one gets through - oh happy days.......

    Report this comment

    Thoreauwasright

    Wednesday, February 19, 2014

  • This just makes me wonder how many of those claiming the floods are caused by AGW or who applaud George Monbiot's pseudo science blanket blame of farmers for just about everything will be adding to carbon emissions and non renewable energy use by flying off several thousand miles to holiday in the Maldives ( which are whining about rising sea levels) or some other exotic location to holiday in modern accommodation and add to the stress on the environment caused by importing their food and processing their waste. Not many of the farmers on the Levels I'll bet.

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    Daisy Roots

    Wednesday, February 19, 2014

  • Read about Boutou and people might change their views on wind turbines.

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    Dick

    Wednesday, February 19, 2014

  • Are people who live in Breckland happy for an unnamed private company to profit from messing with their public assets? Most will see this as Norfolk going backwards, rather than forwards into the 21st Century. Not only is the Centre regionally important and beneficial, it should be valued and promoted nationally. Utter idiocy from Councillors that appear out of their depth once again, wholly typical of Norfolk.

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    HappisburghHarry

    Wednesday, February 19, 2014

  • Any use would be better that its current use – a centre for mis-information & lies, paid for by our taxes! However, I doubt anyone would stay there if it was a hotel due to the constant noise from the turbine and flicker from the turbine blades. Perhaps in future it could be a museum portraying the past stupidity of the ‘green’ era.

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    Norfolk John

    Wednesday, February 19, 2014

  • Good news make something useful of it . Does nothing as it is.

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    Johnny Norfolk

    Wednesday, February 19, 2014

  • DaveG I am with you on the renewable energy industry paying their own way. Unfortunately too many of the shareholders in those industries, Ministers and civil servants in DECC, are working very hard within the corridors of power to make sure UK taxpayers fund green energy schemes by under.hand means. Grants, stealth taxes and council funded educational projects the result is we pay more for the energy we use which we have also paid in other ways to create! I often wonder if civil servants have to declare an interest in projects they administer and not influence decisions in a way that will benefit their own interests. Cllrs declare an interest of course, we have seen that in relation to RAF Coltishall, unfortunately though once an interest is declared the cllr then appears free to use their position to influence propsals.

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    Canary Boy

    Saturday, February 22, 2014

  • Thanks for your comment. There may be a delay before it appears, but there's no need to resubmit it.

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    Thoreauwasright

    Wednesday, February 19, 2014

  • The renewable energy it advertises has been proven to be inefficient and incapable of keeping the lights on for us. It is heavily subsidised by the tax payer as is the charity that currently lives there. Green Britain should be paid for by the renewable energy industry it advertises, not by the tax payers through government grants.

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    DaveG

    Friday, February 21, 2014

  • The whole thing was always morally wrong. The principle of people using energy to travel to learn about renewables in a building build of non renewable steel brick and glass... It was only there as part of woolly minded green thinking or some very sharp minded excuse for having the turbines. Yesterday we saw a report which surprised no one with a bit of age and common sense-that so called eco homes which are completely draught proof are turning out to be prone to moulds because a balance between ventilation, heating and moisture is not being successful. So squillions on non renewable insulation material and glazing etc when the green thing might have been to turn down the heating,put up a thick( recyclable) curtain and wear an extra woolly.

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    Daisy Roots

    Wednesday, February 19, 2014

  • The Green Britain Centre is a world leading facility in Swaffham. It provides educational facilities for people of all ages from all over the country, likewise conference facilities and a lecture theatrecinema. It provides space for exhibitions and is a popular tourist attraction, drawing people from worldwide to visit The Brecks. It is unique. The idea of turning it into a hotel which will probably be unsustainable and lead to job losses in the hospitality trade in the town is short term, blinkered thinking. Imagine if Camden Council were to turn the British Museum into a hotel! Once again this shows a council that knows the price of everything and the value of nothing. We cannot lose such a valuable asset for short term financial gain.

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    Thoreauwasright

    Wednesday, February 19, 2014

  • Apart from Dick and Canary Boy we get the usual comments from Norfolk boys whose footprints were recently discovered at Happisburgh and D.R., you have surpassed even yourself in demonstrating your verbosity, ignorance and ability to drift from the topic - a bit worrying.

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    Thoreauwasright

    Wednesday, February 19, 2014

  • Thanks Canary boy for showing up ignorance and the inability to make modern decisions and for sticking to the topic, I expect that such Hotel, if there is an actual demand for it, will be managed by proffessionals who know about Hotel management and or gastronomie, not by long standing Cllr.s minions and friends.

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    ingo wagenknecht

    Wednesday, February 19, 2014

  • Who would stick two giant windmills near the centre of a town? The whole thing was a white elephant from the start & a waste of taxpayers money. Now we have all those that personally benefitted from it via direct employment & backhanders banging on about it Hotel my foot! use it for something useful like manufacturing

    Report this comment

    J Smith

    Wednesday, February 19, 2014

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

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