Businesses and schools left in the lurch as Swaffham's Green Britain Centre closes suddenly
PUBLISHED: 11:14 13 June 2018 | UPDATED: 15:06 14 June 2018
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A landmark environmental centre, which helped to educate school children across the Norfolk about food, energy and transport, has suddenly announce it will close after nearly 20 years.
The Green Britain Centre in Swaffham has closed after the green energy magnate behind it said he had been unable to make it break even.
Many visitors who had booked events or school trips have been angered by the sudden closure which they said came without warning – with some taking to Facebook to criticise the handling of the news.
The not-for-profit centre, which is known for its distinctive 220ft wind turbine alongside the A47, was originally founded as the EcoTech Centre in 1999 before Dale Vince, owner of green energy firm Ecotricity, took on the project a decade ago. Renaming it the Green Britain Centre in 2012, he expanded its educational remit to include sustainability in food, energy and transport, and offered school trips and event hire.
Mr Vince said: “Despite our best efforts, we’ve been unable to bring the centre to something resembling a break-even position 10 years later. It’s with some regret that we believe we’ve reached the end of the road. It’s a particular shame for the many local schools that visit each year, but we just can’t make it work. We’ll work closely with the landlord Breckland Council to hand the building back.
“I hope they can do something good with it. And we’re willing to help them with that if we can.”
He added: “We want to thank everybody who has been a part of the Green Britain Centre – the staff, volunteers and visitors for their support.”
The site, which includes electric vehicle charge points, will now be handed back to landlords Breckland Council to decide what the future may hold.
A spokesman for Breckland Council said: “We have been surprised by the announcement that the Green Britain Centre is to close. As the owner of the building and surrounding land, we expect to work closely with the current tenant through their notice period to ensure a smooth hand-over. We will also now consider opportunities for the best use of the site in the future.”
Shirley Matthews, Breckland councillor for Swaffham, said the news had come as a huge shock to the town and added she hoped the turbine would remain on the Swaffham skyline.