Community groups step up interest in taking on Norwich sites

Friends of the Silver Rooms committee members, from left, Ian Gibson, chairman; Julie Brociek-Coulto

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. Picture: Denise Bradley - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2012

Four community groups have expressed interest in taking on two Norwich sites which Norfolk County Council had been looking to sell off.

The former Conservative administration had wanted to sell former day centre The Silver Rooms and Train Wood, a riverside patch of land on the city's former railway station site.

With the authority facing a need to make millions of pounds worth of savings, the Conservatives had been looking to raise money through the sales.

But the Labour/Liberal Democrat administration has taken a different tack and offered community groups the chance to take on the sites on a peppercorn lease.

Groups were invited to submit expressions of interest to take on the sites and to come up with sustainable business plans for what they want to do with them.

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The Friends of the Silver Rooms, spearheaded by former Norwich North MP Ian Gibson and Julie Brociek-Coulton, city and county councillor, have long wanted to take on the Silver Rooms, in Silver Road, as a community centre.

While the Friends of Train Wood have been campaigning to keep the Train Wood site on the banks of the River Wensum near Halford's, in public ownership since last year.

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Those groups have submitted expressions of interest - as have two other groups, which the county council says must be kept confidential at this stage.

But Steve Morphew, cabinet member for finance, corporate and personnel, said, in the case of Train Wood, which is the start of the Marriott's Way Norfolk Trail, one bid was not suitable.

He said: 'One will not proceed as the proposed use would not be possible, but the ideas from the group are worthy of further discussion.

'The other was from the Friends of Train Wood, With their expression of interest they provided a high level aspirational summary of their business plan and I hope to meet with them soon to discuss how it can be developed.

'It includes some interesting and exciting ideas that would provide opportunities to promote community involvement and wider community use.

'It also includes suggestions for fundraising that would support the project and could be of useful economic value.'

With the Silver Rooms, it is understood that the Friends of the Silver Rooms and the other bidder have been encouraged to work together to see if they could both make use of the building.

Mr Morphew stressed no leases would not be granted until the council is satisfied that projects have a sustainable business plan.

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