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Opportunity for public questions before crucial vote on Swaffham Green Britain Centre

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A crucial vote will be taken in public next week to determine the future of a former eco tech building which is under negotiation.

The finer details of a possible asset swap of land owned by Swaffham Town Council at Days Field and the Green Britain Centre owned by Breckland Council will be discussed on Monday.

Swaffham mayor Jill Skinner has called an extraordinary virtual meeting of the town council in which a 30-minute public question-and-answer session will begin the proceedings.

Swaffham Mayor Jill Skinner has called an extraordinary meeting regarding the Green Britain Centre for Monday, December 14
Swaffham Mayor Jill Skinner has called an extraordinary meeting regarding the Green Britain Centre for Monday, December 14

There will be a private session from approximately 7pm to 8.30pm, before the vote will be taken in public around 8.40pm.

Mrs Skinner said the council has been carrying out their due diligence on the Turbine Way site with the potential for delivering a community sport and leisure project, while also maintaining environmental attributes the building offered after it was opened in 1999.

She added: "It has taken us a long while to get to this point, it is by no means certain to go ahead, as councillors need to satisfy themselves that it is not a project that will be a financial burden to the Town.

"This could be a really exciting project for Swaffham, it has reached a point where we cannot keep Breckland Council waiting any longer for a decision on the asset swap.

"One way or another we have to make up our minds whether what is on offer meets the ‘Fit for Purpose’ resolution and whether we have sufficiently mitigated the financial risks, in order to embrace this concept and move forward. If not, then both we and Breckland Council, must move on. What will be, will be.”

It comes amid criticism from some councillors who believe important facts have been witheld from the public, and claim there has not been adequate due diligence.

A social media statement by Residents4Residents councillors publicly states: "We have seen quotations for dilapidation that have shocked us, along with some excessive fixed costs that could have severe implications for Swaffham's taxpayers without a solid business implementation.

"How does this fill you with confidence, of either democracy or of business reality? No wonder we are exhausted by our diligence in determination, to try to best represent the affordable quality of life for the people of Swaffham - a far from wealthy electorate."

But Mrs Skinner has dismissed these claims and said there needs to be more faith in the council's ability to deliver a project for the town.

Councillor Paul Hewett, Breckland Council’s executive member for contracts and assets, said: “We believe the proposed asset swap represents real benefits for local residents as it would bring the Green Britain Centre back into public use while making the most of underused land in Swaffham.

"Our view has always been to support this asset swap if it’s in the best interests of the town and the wider taxpayer. While we remain hopeful that we can conclude the proposed arrangements soon, if for any reason this is not possible, we may have to take a pragmatic view and consider alternative arrangements with other parties.”

Swaffham Town Council have had a working group of councillors considering the proposals and options for the Green Britain Centre for over a year. This group would then report back to the full council.

Swaffham's Breckland councillor Ian Sherwood said: “During the local election campaign in May 2019 local residents had two major concerns that were raised with me again and again, those were that they wanted better sports and leisure provision and they also hoped the Green Britain Centre which is an iconic building become an asset for the town.”

He continued: “This once in a lifetime opportunity could see the Green Britain Centre become the property of Swaffham residents through the town council who have some exciting ideas about its future use that could see improved sports and leisure facilities for our town.”

Breckalnd and county councillor Ed Colman added: "Ever since Swaffham Town Council first approached Breckland to discuss the possibility of them taking over the Green Britain Centre, we have been working in partnership to find a mutually beneficial solution.

"The town council approached us with an idea and like with any negotiation both sides have compromised throughout to get to this point, it is now up to the members of Swaffham Town Council to reflect on the detailed proposals and make a formal decision. The plans are potentially transformational if approved."

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