Green Britain Centre a step closer to becoming leisure facility after Swaffham Town Council vote
Town councillors have agreed to proceed with legal due diligence which could see their authority take control of a former eco building.
Swaffham Town Council backed plans for an additional feasibility study and public consultation on the Green Britain Centre (GBC) site in the town during a special meeting last night.
Paul Darby's proposal was seconded by Colin Houghton, and the wording included making urgent enquiries with sport and leisure providers.
The proposal, regarding a potential asset swap between Breckland Council and the town council, in which the latter would take on the GBC in return for Days Field land, was passed by eight votes to four.
Before the vote, councillors went into closed session to discuss whether to agree to the asset swap in principle - subject to conditions - or to walk away from negotiations.
During public questions before the private session, Breckland's strategic property manager Ralph Burton said the district council had decided to put the building back onto the market a couple of months ago.
The meeting was told the move was made to explore other options after the amount of time taken to reach a decision with the town council.
But Mr Burton dismissed the idea that Breckland viewed the town council as "a soft touch" and said they had been working with each other for a significant period of time on the issue.
In response to a question asking how many years it would take for a substantial return on the investment, Swaffham town clerk Richard Bishop said work was ongoing to mitigate the difference of two figures.
He said part of the private discussions were to reach a figure, which would be released in due course.
The clerk responded to another public question by saying it is a "big assumption" to think the Turbine Way site is not fit for purpose, and said the town council has been trying to mitigate any financial risk for the taxpayer of Swaffham through due diligence.
Mr Bishop said the aim was to get a long-term leaseholder in place when asked about funding the main repairs for the building.
And on the prospect of losing an estimated £775,000 profit for the Days Field site, Mr Bishop added: "The whole point is to transfer a community asset Swaffham is not using to something that will be of benefit to the town. That defines the real reason for the asset swap."
The clerk said the next steps would be finalising due diligence, a business plan, public consultation and exploring the feasibility of a leisure facility for the GBC.
He said there was a potential sport and leisure tenant in the town waiting on a deal, but this would be subject to a number of conditions.
There is an existing leisure facility at the Nicholas Hammond Academy, which has had £1.5m of refurbishment work.
But Mr Bishop said: "If it was purely sport and leisure, the biggest problem we see at the moment is there are restrictions for school use during the course of the day, whereas a community facility could be 24 hours. If we could improve on those facilities, clearly that is a benefit of the asset swap."
And he also told the meeting that the town council spend nothing on manpower for existing buildings leased out such as the Assembly Rooms and Community Centre.
The GBC site covers five acres of land, including the car park. There is a separate lease for the wind turbine.