Norfolk eco-education centre gets go-ahead

Jon WelchAn 'eco-education centre', thought to be the first of its kind in East Anglia, is set to become a reality after councillors approved funding.Jon Welch

An 'eco-education centre', thought to be the first of its kind in East Anglia, is set to become a reality after councillors approved funding.

The centre, which will provide educational facilities for schoolchildren business training for adults, is set to be built at Rackheath after Broadland councillors agreed to allocate �400,000 for its construction and a further �200,000 to run it for three years.

The funding comes out of a �16m pot of government money pledged for the planned eco-town at Rackheath and associated projects.

The council agreed to allocate the money to the scheme at a cabinet meeting yesterday.

A suitable plot of land at Rackheath Industrial Estate has been identified for development, and it is anticipated that building work will be commissioned in the autumn with the centre opening in the spring.

The education centre will be fitted out with training rooms, an eco-tech laboratory and healthy living food technology room, as well as an administration office.

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It will incorporate office space for another company or organisation which can be either rented out by the council to an eco-company or customised to deliver business training.

Schoolchildren will be able to carry out experiments which link in with the national curriculum, and it is hoped the centre will act as a 'halfway-house' between business and schools, allowing young people to find out more about the world of work.

'Schools will come to us with themes that they are really interested in, relating to green technology, new technology and renewable energy and we will initiate a project,' said Chris Hill, head of business support and leisure services at Broadland.

'One of the dilemmas for businesses is getting their message over in schools because every 45 minutes or so the bell rings and the children move on.

'This will provide us with a halfway-house where they, as a business, can have a project that pupils can participate in and schools don't have to worry about the health and safety implications about going into a business.'

The building will incorporate the latest environmentally sustainable materials and be built with energy efficiency in mind. School pupils will be able to visit to see the building while under construction.

Acle, Hellesdon and Notre Dame high schools have already been in talks about using the centre, but the doors will also be opened to other schools in the Norwich area and further afield.

'It can be a resource for the whole of Norfolk. We've even had an inquiry from Suffolk asking if they will be able to use it, too.'

Do you know of an exciting new project planned for the Norwich area? Call reporter Jon Welch on 01603 772476 or email