Eco-education system in Rackheath

Dan GrimmerA �600,000 'eco education centre' looks set to be built in Rackheath - ahead of the controversial creation of the eco-townDan Grimmer

A �600,000 'eco education centre' looks set to be built in Rackheath - ahead of the controversial creation of the eco-town.

Members of Broadland District Council's cabinet will be asked next week to agree to spend �400,000 on building the centre, with a further �200,000 to keep it running for three years.

The previous government had pledged up to �16m to support the 4,000 plus eco-town at Rackheath and money has been secured to pay for the education centre, which would be built at Rackheath Industrial Estate.

The centre would include a laboratory, training rooms and a healthy living food technology room and would use the latest environmentally sustainable materials, energy solutions and construction methods.

Schools would be able to use the centre and the council hopes it would help get local businesses more involved with environmental and renewable energy schemes while acting as an 'exemplar' for new commercial developments.

Chris Hill, head of business support and leisure services at Broadland District Council, said the centre could be built in four to six months, so could be up and running at the start of next year, ahead of the first phase of building the eco-town.

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He said the building would also incorporate space which could be rented out to an eco-company or be used for business training, possibly by moving the present Broadland Council Training Services team from Thorpe Lodge.

Mr Hill said, in the report which will go before councillors on Monday: 'There is significant demand from primary and secondary schools for access to a centre such as this. Projects are already in formulation with an initial group of three high schools and their cluster primary schools to provide a wide range of project work both at the centre and within the schools.'

But he added: 'The centre can be utilised by the council in providing a key presence in Rackheath as the development in the growth area unfolds over the next 10 to 20 years and need not be restricted purely to education matters but can expand its remit to other training and service areas.'

At next week's meeting members will be asked to approve the scheme and to decide whether to fund it entirely using the money made available through the eco-town submission or whether to combine that cash with money from the council's reserves - to send a message that the council is committed to community development at Rackheath.

Simon Woodbridge, leader of Broadland District Council, said the building would 'add a new dimension' to the council's ability to support businesses in reducing carbon use and energy costs.

The eco-town plan has run into strong opposition from surrounding communities, who fear the area is being overdeveloped.

A proposal to build a new green business park on the edge of Norwich was rejected last week.

Members of Broadland District Council's planning committee refused a bid by Norwich-based Building Partnerships to build the new business park at Dakenham Hall in Rackheath in the light of uncertainties over government planning policies.

The �4m scheme would have seen more than 125 jobs created on the former farmland site, but families in Rackheath and Salhouse raised fears about traffic levels and having wind turbines so near people's homes.

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