£300k bill to use ex-Britvic factory as Covid PPE base

The Carrow Works site in Norwich

The Carrow Works site in Norwich. - Credit: Fuel Properties

More than £300,000 is to be spent so a former factory can continue to be used to distribute Covid personal protective equipment.

Up until now Norfolk County Council has been able to use part of the former Britvic factory at Carrow Works in Norwich, rent free, to store and distribute the crucial kit.

The PPE is provided to care homes, Covid testing teams, staff who work in children's services and adult social care, museum and library staff and other council workers, with almost 450,000 items distributed last month.

But the arrangement to use the building has been informal and the council has no security of tenure.

Officers feared, if it were to be leased by another organisation, that could create a "business continuity risk" for the distribution operation.

So the county council has offered to pay Britvic £307,000 to rent the building, for the next 14 months.

A report drawn up by County Hall officers stated: "Whilst Britvic has demonstrated exceptional goodwill in supporting the county council through the past year, it is now appropriate to seek a more stable legal arrangement.

"Now that the emergency phase of the pandemic seems to have passed, the council has offered to pay Britvic a market rent,
which Britvic has accepted."

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Officers said acquiring the lease, using cash allocated to the county council for the Covid-19 response, will secure a "vital facility".

Officers said the rent comes to £56.50 per square metre, including business rates, which the council says compares well to similar properties.

The council said the former Britvic factory was a centrally-located, purpose built logistics warehouse and Norfolk councils owned nothing similar.

Greg Peck, Conservative candidate for Reepham. Pic: Norfolk Conservatives.

Greg Peck, Norfolk County Council cabinet member for commercial services and asset management. - Credit: Norfolk Conservatives

The decision to take out the lease was approved by Greg Peck, cabinet member for commercial services and asset management.

Britvic and Colman's maker Unilever left the Carrow Works site in 2019 and 2020, with the loss of hundreds of jobs.

Bottles on the Britvic production line in Norwich Picture: James Bass

Robinson's drinks used to be made in the Britvic factory. - Credit: Eastern Daily Press © 2007

The longer-term plan for the Britvic building is for it to be redeveloped as part of the East Norwich Masterplan, which council bosses say will create thousands of homes and jobs.