Moving times for council

FACED with having to spend more than £5 million on its HQ in the next decade, a council is considering whether to move to, or build, new premises.Suffolk Coastal is already faced with an outlay this year of £230,000 to improve outdated fire precautions at its main buildings and put in temporary access for people with disabilities.

FACED with having to spend more than £5 million on its HQ in the next decade, a council is considering whether to move to, or build, new premises.

Suffolk Coastal is already faced with an outlay this year of £230,000 to improve outdated fire precautions at its main buildings and put in temporary access for people with disabilities.

But council chiefs say in the next ten years, they are looking at a mend and make do maintenance bill of £5.1m - which will not even improve or add value to offices on Melton Hill at Woodbridge.

Now cabinet members are being asked to spend £12,000 on consultants to look at whether the authority should move to a new site.


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It will mean enormous upheaval for the 300 staff who work at the main offices - and possibly working in another town, too, as the council is likely to look at land available in all parts of the district.

Though its wish would inevitably be to remain central, it could even move to Felixstowe as there are sites available on the edge of the town for office use.

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In a report to cabinet, property services manager Richard Vest and estates officer Gary Lowe said the main part of the current offices was constructed when Suffolk Coastal was created in 1974.

It was a system-built construction with a life expectancy of 25 years. That date has now passed and its age is now leading to an increasing need for costly maintenance and improvement.

The report said action now needed to be taken - and recommends getting some expert input into the possibility of a move.

One option could be to redevelop the existing site, demolishing the existing buildings and replacing them with a smaller more modern complex, and using the remainder of the riverside site for housing.

However, this was looked at by officers last year and the findings were "fairly emphatic" - even with selling some of the site for homes, the council would be left with a bill of £8m to cover the cost of demolition and a new building.

The most attractive idea could be to sell off the site to a developer who could build a few offices or a business centre on part of the land, and use the remainder for houses, perhaps converting the oldest part of the buildings.

"Early discussions with development control indicate that a business park type development may be acceptable but there is clearly a finite market for such properties and any developer will have to be confident that there is unsatisfied demand," said the report.

"The risks involved are likely to be reflected in the price that might be offered (for the site)."

This would leave the council needing to find alternative premises, building new ones, or leasing offices or seeking a partner to develop a site which the council would then rent.

n What do you think? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN, or e-mail EveningStarLetters@eveningstar.co.uk

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