Swaffham mayor hopes crucial Green Britain Centre vote can turn into 'viable project'
Following a decision to proceed with the Green Britain Centre [GBC] asset swap negotiations this week, officials have said there is still plenty of work to do to secure a community facility.
Swaffham Town Council agreed to proceed with the legal due diligence, additional feasibility study and public consultation, subject to conditions, by eight votes to four during an extraordinary meeting on Monday.
In response to the vote, Swaffham mayor Jill Skinner said the meeting was "just the end of the beginning" and hopes it should help to bring clarity over the situation.
She added: "I believe that this decision to move forward can be a springboard to better things for the town as a whole.
"We as town councillors need to work together, and with Breckland Council and with others, so that our townsfolk can be confident that the GBC can be more than a ‘white elephant’ or a financial ‘millstone’, that none of us want and we must learn from past mistakes made at this site.
"This is an exciting opportunity; the aim now is to do all we can to turn that opportunity into a viable project and present a final deal to our residents that they can all sign up to.”
Her comments come amid criticisms from some town councillors who believe the financial risks involved could burden the taxpayer in years to come.
One town councillor shared a letter with the Lynn News which claims there are quotes of £2,200,000 to renovate the building.
If the asset swap was to go ahead, Breckland Council would take on Days Field in exchange for the GBC. With this land valued at £750,000, the councillor has queried how any potential debts would be paid off.
But the town council has released a statement this afternoon which says it is committed to finding out all the information they need to finalise the deal with Breckland Council and to be in a position to hold public consultation in the new year.
The statement adds: "There is still a lot of work to do, but most of this can now be done concurrently, with sport and leisure at the very heart of these discussions. Results of commissioned work by Breckland Council on sports and leisure, will be shared with the town council shortly.
"There still remains genuine concerns over viability, rectification costs, non-domestic rates and how to provide assurances of financial stability."
The town council's preferred management model would be to own the building, but to have a sole (or anchor) tenant.
Breckland councillor Paul Hewett, Breckland, executive member for contracts and assets, said: “I’m delighted that the town council has voted to take this further forward. We have been working closely together on this for some time as it would mean the Green Britain Centre would come back into public use, while underused land in the town can potentially be taken forward for much-needed development.
"It is important now that we keep up the pace and ensure the plans reach fruition in a timely manner and ensure any solution meets the needs of both Swaffham and the wider Breckland taxpayer, as we continue to receive a number of expressions of interest about this important building.”
The GBC site covers five acres of land, including the car park. There is a separate lease for the wind turbine.