£3.1m from car park sale will be reinvested in Norfolk Showground

Mark Nicholas, managing director of the Royal Norfolk Agricultural Association

Mark Nicholas, managing director of the Royal Norfolk Agricultural Association, which organises the Royal Norfolk Show - Credit: Danielle Booden

A £3.1m sale of land to housebuilders will pay for improvements and future developments at the Norfolk Showground, said the venue's owners.

The Royal Norfolk Agricultural Association (RNAA) has published its annual report, showing a financial surplus of £3,197,470 for 2021.

That was boosted by the £3.1m sale of land to Persimmon Homes, a deal finally completed last May after 14 years, which will "provide the association with capital funds for reinvestment in the showground" - including a "major refurbishment" of the Norfolk Arena.

Managing director Mark Nicholas said the sale of the 20-acre field, previously used as the "Red" car park near Easton, was a "one-off" which has put the organisation on a firmer financial footing.

"The RNAA does not intend or plan to dispose of any more of its assets," he said. "Quite the reverse.

"This receipt will now be reinvested in the showground facilities, maintenance, and to enable us to undertake some longer-term development going forward.

"We have got to spend nearly £250,000 soon on upgrading the electricity supply, there are many other buildings and facilities that need to be maintained and upgraded, and we are going to commit to a major refurbishment of the Norfolk Arena."

He added: "The better commercial management of the showground makes the RNAA charity more resilient so that it can continue to run big events like the Royal Norfolk Shows and deliver our other charitable outputs."

Even without the land sale, the RNAA made an operational surplus of almost £100,000 last year - despite the second consecutive cancellation of its flagship summer event due to Covid.

Mr Nicholas said he was "thrilled" with that figure, particularly following the £700,000 loss the previous year in 2020.

He attributed that partly to the £575,000 grant received from the from the government's Culture Recovery Fund, but also the strategy to make better commercial use of the showground

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"We have really diversified how we use the showground, so it is not just events," he said. "We have now got seven commercial tenants at the showground, and we are using that space in other commercial ways for short-term hirings and lettings."

The second half of 2021 also saw a "strong rebound" in the events market, with the Summer Fayre, Norfolk Equestrian Show and Norfolk HarFest all bringing visitors back to the showground, he said.

Mr Nicholas said the land sale will not affect the parking capacity at this summer's "great revival" of the Royal Norfolk Show on June 29-30.

He said other land will be provided to replace parking space, and the RNAA has also negotiated with bus operators to use the Costessey Park and Ride during the show, as well as providing discounted entry tickets for people travelling by bus from the city centre.