Norwich City Council defends decision to buy gym in Ramsgate for £2.3m after fresh criticism
PUBLISHED: 10:37 29 November 2018 | UPDATED: 10:37 29 November 2018
Council leaders have made a fresh defence of their commercial investments, which included spending £9.5m on a gym in Kent and a Northamptonshire cold store.
Norwich City Council came in for criticism after it emerged that it had bought a gym at the Westwood Cross Shopping Centre in Ramsgate for £2.3m and a coldstore in Corby for £7.2m.
But at a full city council meeting this week, the Labour-run council defended the investments, saying they were essential to generate money to protect services.
Member of the public Peter Kemp asked councillors whether it would be more reasonable and a better use of locally-raised council tax and business rates, for the authority to be buying local properties.
Paul Kendrick, cabinet member for resources, said that 60pc of the properties which the city council bought were within the city’s boundaries, while there were 200 properties in the city which it had owned “for decades”.
But he said it was worth the council investing in properties, which it rents out to tenants to bring in money, away from the city too.
He said: “From a risk management perspective, it makes sense to diversify, by acquiring properties in different locations.”
Green group leader Denise Carlo said the gym bought was in an out of town shopping centre which she said had “gutted” the high streets of Ramsgate and Margate.
She added access to the shopping centre was mainly by car and the shopping centre was “reliant on high fossil fuel energy usage”.
She asked if the council would adopt “ethical and sustainability” criteria in deciding how to invest and said it was “regrettable” City Hall had bought the gym in a development on the “lowest end” of the sustainability scale.
In response, Mr Kendrick said the property had a A rating energy performance certificate and the money raised would be used to fund and protect council services.
He said: “Whilst we are planning to introduce some ethical considerations into the commercial property investment strategy which comes to cabinet for approval in December, this would not include automatically excluding investments located in out-of-town shopping centres.”