What does the future hold for Swaffham’s Green Britain Centre?
- Credit: IAN BURT
The Green Britain Centre, perched on the edge of Swaffham and visible from the A47, has had a rocky two decades, but its purchase by an international firm could spell a brighter future.
Opened as the EcoTech Centre in 1999, the building and its distinctive 220ft wind turbine was bought by green energy magnate Dale Vince, owner of the firm Ecotricity, in 2008. Mr Vince renamed it the Green Britain Centre in 2012.
At its most popular, the centre was an educational attraction which drew visitors and school groups from across the region.
It even offered the opportunity for visitors to climb the 305 spiral steps of its turbine, with a viewing platform commanding extraordinary views over Norfolk.
2016 was a record-breaker for the centre, with 22,000 visitors welcomed, 8000 of whom climbed the turbine.
But even these numbers were not enough to allow the attraction to break even, and in 2018, the Green Britain Centre announced its closure - dismaying visitors and groups who had their bookings suddenly cancelled.
At the time, 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.
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“It's with some regret that we believe we've reached the end of the road.”
In the following years, Breckland District Council (BDC) debated the building’s future - with plans to convert it into a leisure centre eventually deemed too expensive.
In July 2021, it was revealed international firm Flexion Global Ltd had purchased the centre, and would move their operations there from King’s Lynn - bringing 65 new jobs to the town.
The company trades as Arbortec Forestwear, which specialises in the design and manufacture of PPE for the forestry and agricultural industry.
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Managing director Karl Brothers said: "We are excited that the Green Britain Centre will once again become a busy hub of activity, supporting the local community in the heart of Breckland and providing employment opportunities for the area.”
And the people of Swaffham have not had their hopes for improved leisure provision dashed either - just weeks after the Flexion announcement, Swaffham Town Council gifted land next to the centre to BDC, and it is hoped a new leisure centre will stand next to the Green Britain Centre within two years.