Hotel is 'good investment'

Breckland Council has insisted that a controversial £11m investment in a golf club and hotel was still a good investment despite the complex reporting a £245,000 loss.

Breckland Council has insisted that a controversial £11m investment in a golf club and hotel was still a good investment despite the complex reporting a £245,000 loss.

And the council has continued to refuse to reveal any details about the return it is getting from using taxpayers' money to help with expansion plans at Barnham Broom.

The authority used reserves to buy the club in 2006 and the deal was met with controversy and scepticism at the time.

Ever since, the council has stressed the deal is good news for taxpayers and the rent it gets from Barnham Broom is more than it would get if the money was in the bank.

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However, no figures have been revealed by Breckland because of “commercial confidentiality.”

It has now emerged from published company results that Barnham Broom made a £245,000 loss last year, sparking new calls from opposition councillors for more openness.

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Barnham Broom managing Noel Byrne said: “Extensive flooding in Norfolk created unprecedented disruption to our business last summer.”

But he said that since then business had steadily improved and this summer had been very busy with record weddings and events.

He also said that the opening of a new spa facility this summer was only the start of future plans.

“We are also working closely with our landlords, Breckland Council, on our longer term expansion and development plans to transform Barnham Broom into Norfolk's leading hotel and leisure resort,” Mr Byrne added.

Breckland chief executive Trevor Holden said: “The purchase of the site at Barnham Broom remains a sound investment which continues to deliver returns higher than other forms of investment on behalf of our council tax payers to keep down council tax and maintain and improve our services to our residents.

“It is a commercial asset in just the same way as a factory unit or an office.

“Should any of our commercial properties become vacant we would review the market situation at the time before deciding to re-let, sell or redevelop the site. A recent example of this is the recent sale of a property at Watton.

“Clearly it would be inappropriate for the council to speculate about any of our commercial tenants.”

But Breckland Labour group leader Robin Goreham said: “When the council bought Barnham Broom - or asset A as it was called - the whole thing was shrouded in mystery. Here we are a couple of years on and again it is shrouded in mystery. We do not know how much we are making or how much we are not making.”

Mr Goreham added: “It is time they came clean.”

Last week the council advertised a £50,000 a year head of asset management post, with performance related pay and relocation allowance.

The post holder would provide “strategic advice to the council on all land and property issues” and “actively manage all Breckland Council's land and property assets”.

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