Councils revive joint plan to move into former Aviva office

The Horizon Business Centre at the Broadland Business Park. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

The Horizon Business Centre at the Broadland Business Park. - Credit: DENISE BRADLEY/Archant2021

Plans from two Norfolk councils to buy and move into a former Aviva office is back on the table and set to be discussed next week. 

The scheme had previously been shrouded in uncertainty, but South Norfolk Council (SNC) and Broadland District Council (BDC) are once more considering the purchase of the Horizon business centre in Broadland Business Park, in Postwick, to use as a new joint headquarters.

The councils had previously explored the option of sharing space with Norfolk County Council (NCC) in County Hall, but the latter authority was unable to guarantee there would be enough room for them. It was also understood that NCC’s Conservative group did not welcome the idea.

In a leaked April 11 newsletter, addressed to his Conservative colleagues, SNC leader John Fuller notes that two thirds of the district’s population live closer to the Horizon building - formerly occupied by Aviva - than to their current headquarters in Long Stratton. 

South Norfolk Council leader John Fuller. Picture: ROSE SAPEY

South Norfolk Council's Conservative leader John Fuller - Credit: Rose Sapey

As well as saving taxpayers’ money and reducing carbon emissions, Mr Fuller told his colleagues the move could benefit the Conservatives at the local elections in 2023.

“Horizon would represent an 84pc reduction in energy costs compared to running our two existing buildings – good business and good politics when carbon efficiency and financial savings will be an important election battleground,” he wrote.

In a warning to colleagues wavering over the idea, he said: “Please consider the political dangers of turning our backs on the opportunity to move to a low-cost, carbon neutral building where we can get the most from our staff all working together under one roof.”

The Horizon Business Centre at the Broadland Business Park.

The Horizon Business Centre at the Broadland Business Park. - Credit: DENISE BRADLEY/Archant2021

Commenting this week, Mr Fuller said the move would save the equivalent of 15pc on SNC’s council tax each year, allowing the authority to reduce costs and to freeze council tax next year.

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“For those who will be further away [after the proposed move], a new drop-in office in Diss together with a mobile office fitted with Wifi and printers will make it easier for us to reach everyone who needs us,” he said.

SNC and BDC will respectively discuss the plan in committee meetings on Monday and Tuesday next week.

Retirement village mooted for Long Stratton

The leaked newsletter, authored by Mr Fuller, also suggests that turning the authority’s current headquarters in Long Stratton into a retirement village would be “a compelling proposition”. 

South Norfolk House in Long Stratton
Photograph Simon Parker

South Norfolk House in Long Stratton. - Credit: Simon Parker

Mr Fuller pointed out that the Greater Norwich area has a 3,188 shortfall in the number of homes for supported living.

The council leader said that “a mix of single level flats, bungalows, [and] communal social space” could be developed at the council’s HQ on Swan Lane, with its south-facing open space retained. 

If the complex was built by SNC’s wholly-owned developer, Big Sky Living, Mr Fuller said the authority stood to earn an estimated £4m return on the project. 

He added that the plan would come with its own political benefits, saying: “Helping grannies downsize from huge draughty homes to cosy bungalows close to the shops is good politics.”

Commenting this week, Mr Fuller said the idea also "reduces the costs of social care to the county council taxpayer and frees up larger homes across the district for young families to raise a new generation of children.

"That's a good deal for everyone.  The net proceeds of the 'active retirement' redevelopment will pay for the entire costs of our share of the new [Horizon] building."