Energy minister Greg Barker praises eco education centre in Rackheath

A government minister praised a Norfolk council's 'visionary' approach to promoting eco-conscious house-building after visiting an innovative education centre outside Norwich.

Energy and climate change minister Greg Barker unveiled a plaque at the �500,000 Eco Community Education Centre, which opened earlier this year at the Rackheath Industrial Estate.

Broadland District Council says the centre will play a key role in its ambition to deliver new and refurbished homes that are zero or very low carbon, by promoting new technology and new methods in green and 'clean tech' building systems.

Mr Barker said: 'I have learned today just how determined Broadland is to provide new homes that are not only desperately needed in the area, but also to make sure they are built to a very high energy and water-saving standard.

'This centre has the potential to develop a forward-thinking and environmentally-aware construction and supply-chain industry for the future, and in particular make sure local Norfolk companies are geared up to win contracts as the council's growth plans unfold.'

The centre aims to offer a space where schools and businesses can work together and share ideas on energy efficiency.

Broadland is also working with sustainable building consultancy BRE Group to develop a 'clean tech' network in the district and around Norwich, to hone specialist skills.

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Mr Barker said: 'It's great to see a visionary local authority like Broadland working with world class companies like BRE to seize the opportunity around the Green Deal and low carbon housing investment to build a new clean tech business strategy around local jobs and skills. I'm looking forward to working with them to help showcase these skills and technologies around the world.'

As the programme is rolled out, the partners plan to work with the government's export specialists UK Trade and Investment to showcase these skills at BRE 'innovation parks' established in six cities across the world, including Beijing, Toronto, Brasilia and Chennai.

Mr Barker was also shown details of a new 12-home development at Trinity Close in the village, which has been built to high ecological specifications which are being used as a benchmark for future growth in the area.

Broadland's portfolio holder for economic development, Stuart Clancy said: 'We are delighted the minister has been able to come here today and see at first hand the environmental initiatives being piloted in the area and the green values that run throughout our philosophy.

'Not only will the applied learning on offer at our eco-centre give local youngsters the all important edge they need in a competitive jobs market, but it underpins our determination to put Broadland at the forefront of UK activity to combat climate change.'

The new centre is being run by the council's training arm, Broadland Council Training Services (BCTS), and houses a raft of environmentally-friendly features including solar photovoltaic panels, rainwater harvesting and an air source heat pump system.

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