Friends of the Silver Rooms committee members, from left, Ian Gibson, chairman; Julie Brociek-Coulton, secretary; and Ann Turner, discuss plans for the Silver Rooms as they start fundraising to buy the building. Picture: Denise Bradley

Proposed Norwich community centre faces February auction - if campaigners fail to meet council’s cash demand

Thursday, December 6, 2012
12.56 PM

Campaigners are urging people to dig deep to stop council bosses from selling an in-demand Norwich community centre at auction.

The Friends of the Silver Rooms have until December 20 to put down a deposit of approximately £2,600 to secure the Silver Road building, and January 4 to pay the first instalment of around £26,000.

A community centre is proposed for the former day centre, with scores of groups expressing their interest in hosting events and clubs for people of all ages.

But if the Friends fail to secure a deal, which will cost £80,000 over three years, then Norfolk County Council will put the Silver Rooms up for sale at auction in February.

The authority has refused requests to give the building to the group for free, insisting it must secure the best deal for taxpayers.

Ian Gibson, former Norwich North MP and committee chairman, said: “The most ironic thing in the world is Norfolk County Council says they want to talk to us about using the place for children under two years old.

“We have ideas for developing the centre. It would, in my view, be used 24 hours a day, seven days a week, such is the demand.

“We have a business plan and know after the first six months it will be well supported, the money will come in and we will keep up the payments.

“We would like support and help for these initial fees.”

The county council is asking for the market value. Two options were offered - £80,000 or £68,000 if the Friends agreed to a 79-year clawback clause, which would have ensured any profits of a future sale would be split between the group and the council.

The Friends estimate the total project will cost £300,000 but they will seek grants, among other sources, to achieve this target.

Cliff Jordan, county council cabinet member for efficiency, said a number of discussions had taken place with the Friends since 2009 and it had always been made clear the site would not be given away.

Mr Jordan said: “The Friends were advised via a telephone conversation over a year ago of the sale price and this was confirmed in writing on January 20, 2012.

“They have had sufficient time to raise funds but haven’t to date, so we have made the decision to offer the property for sale by auction in February.

“We believe it is important the building is put to good use within the local community.

“The previous county council service users are now being cared for elsewhere so we have decided now is a good time for the building to be sold.”

Julie Brociek-Coulton, Sewell ward city councillor and secretary of the Friends group, has drawn up a five-page list of ideas from people wanting to use the Silver Rooms.

Activities proposed include ballet dancing, film shows, reminiscence sessions, a climbing wall, knitting groups and job clubs.

The Norwich branch of the U3A, or University of the Third Age, which runs study or activity groups for the over 50s, has also expressed an interest.

Chairman Derek Oldham said: “We tend to be looking for places for relatively small groups. Most of our study groups meet in people’s homes. They are up to 10 people. Then there’s some we do use bigger premises - either the groups have got a bit too big or people’s houses are too small for 10, 15 or 20 people.

“It can be quite difficult to find a suitable place.”

Anyone who wants to support the Friends campaign should contact Julie Brociek-Coulton on 07786 694325 or email

Alternatively visit Facebook and search for Friends of the Silver Rooms.

Cheques for the fund should be written to the Silver Road Community Centre and sent to Ian Gibson, 220 College Road, Norwich NR2 3JA.