New eco-centre costs set to soar

The estimated costs of building a state-of-the-art council and science headquarters in Lowestoft has soared by nearly a third to £53m in a bid to boost its environmental credentials, project bosses have revealed.

The estimated costs of building a state-of-the-art council and science headquarters in Lowestoft has soared by nearly a third to £53m in a bid to boost its environmental credentials, project bosses have revealed.

They defended the soaring price of the Waveney Campus building, insisting the burden would not fall on taxpayers and that the complex's energy efficient design would create savings to pay back the additional investment.

However, Waveney MP Bob Blizzard expressed concern at the increasing costs and raised fears they would soar further.

Waveney Campus is due to open by the banks of Lake Lothing in 2010 and will house 1,000 staff from Waveney District and Suffolk County councils, and Lowestoft-based Centre for the Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (Cefas).

Waveney spokesman Phil Harris said a key objective of the campus plans was to reduce carbon emissions by designing a building that was naturally ventilated and lit to avoid the use of air-conditioning and excessive lighting. The building's design engineers are also looking at rainwater harvesting, solar water heating, ground-source heat pumps and woodchip fired heating.

"These technologies often add to the capital cost of the building, but are repaid many times over in its whole life," said Mr Harris.

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Last week, government-owned Cefas insisted the Riverside Business Park area, off Riverside Road, was the only suitable site for the building and that it would be forced to move out of the Lowestoft area if the plans did not get the green light.

Cefas employs 320 people at its base in Pakefield, and has announced plans to relocate 80 workers from its other centre at Burnham-on-Crouch in Essex - another factor in the rising costs of the project.

Mr Harris said the £53m outlay would not be absorbed by taxpayers even though the estimated costs had risen.

"The capital costs will be met from borrowing and the loan repayments will be met from existing revenue budgets that support the running of the partners' buildings," he said.

Mr Blizzard, who says he is not against the Waveney Campus in principle, added: "The cost has increased by £13m before they have even got planning permission, so I think the project will get more and more expensive."

Mr Blizzard is against plans to force nine businesses from the site and said he was also convinced Cefas would not be forced to move out of Lowestoft, even if the Waveney Campus plans did not get the green light.

Brian Robinson, commercial director of Cefas, said: "We have substantially increased the environmental spec to meet mandatory government expectations for sustainability."

Suffolk's greenest county bid - Page 22