Swaffham Town Council asks for more faith over Green Britain Centre negotiations
A town council has defended its attempts to purchase a building as a community facility amid claims it is a "hare-brained scheme" without adequate consultation.
Swaffham mayor Jill Skinner has written an open letter to residents regarding the proposed asset swap with Breckland Council in which the town council would take on the Green Britain Centre for the Days Field site.
Ahead of an extraordinary meeting on Monday, Mrs Skinner said no self-respecting council would forge ahead without due diligence and public consultation.
She added: "I want to try and redress some misinformation that has been circulated recently, that tries to scare people into thinking that your town council would push ahead with a hare-brained scheme, at all costs (millions of pounds) and at the expense of the council taxpayer, without consulting first with the town.
"I must assure you all that this is not the intention, however as with any acquisition of a potential community asset, there are complexities that cannot be discussed in public, until the appropriate time."
Her comments come in response to a post on the Swaffham Residents Forum Facebook page which suggests a deal is being pushed forward, "without the proper opportunities for the people of Swaffham to be informed of facts, risks and future potential problems of administration and management".
The post adds: "Residents4Residents councillors have been pushing harder and ever harder for permission to share critical and important facts that relate to the future prospects of the Green Britain Centre- against a seemingly immovable barrier of protocols."
One councillor wrote to the town clerk requesting some "risk analysis" for the Green Britain Centre (GBC) amid claims of "secret meetings" taking place without the full council.
A working group has been set up for the town council, while many meetings have taken place to discuss the negotiations with Breckland Council in private.
But Mrs Skinner's letter asks for more faith in the town council, referring to "the right decisions" being made in the past such as purchasing the dilapidated Community Centre, and leasing a rebuilt modern centre and refurbished Assembly Rooms to the Iceni Partnership.
Her statement adds: "If we choose to proceed, we will pull together all of the available detail that we can share publicly and check with the public before we sign on the dotted line and go ahead.
"Unfortunately, if we dither about and procrastinate further, then Breckland Council themselves will quite rightly go elsewhere to dispose of the GBC, as they have made it clear to the town council, that they would much prefer that the GBC remains with the community, but if the community does not want it, they will find another suitor and the window of opportunity, currently open will be closed."
The council has been discussing sport and leisure provision in Swaffham and believe that a good sport and leisure option can be offered from the GBC and the surrounding land.
Mrs Skinner said the council is "not putting all of our eggs in the one basket" as there are other sport and leisure providers who can equally be considered as an anchor tenant.
The Lynn News was contacted by personal trainer and fitness instructor Chloe Brown, who recently moved to Swaffham, and has been clamouring for the GBC to address the lack of leisure provision in the town.
Miss Brown, of Prosport Fitness and Yoga, said: "No leisure facilities for a town of this size is not acceptable in this day and age."
The instructor has contacted MP Liz Truss and the town council in an attempt to address this issue, believing more facilities are urgently needed between Lynn and Dereham. She will be meeting Ms Truss in the new year.
Miss Brown added: "This opportunity needs to be met. If the funding is there we need to prioritise the money to build a new facility in the town. We can't keep erecting new houses but leaving nothing for the people who live there. That is not common sense."
Breckland councillor Ian Sherwood has previously expressed his hopes for the GBC to become a lesiure facility during a town council meeting.