Planning permission for new council HQ
Plans for a new office HQ for Newark and Sherwood District Council have been approved by the authority’s planning committee.
Moving to modern, cost-effective and efficient offices on a site next to the Cattle Market, off the Great North Road, Newark, which will be shared with a number of public sector partners, will save council taxpayers in the region of £500,000 each year.
Relocating from the authority’s current offices in Kelham, close to the town centre, will improve access for customers and residents and with more than 230 staff working close to town centre businesses and services, it will have a positive impact on the local economy, supporting the council’s prosperity agenda.
Newark and Sherwood District Council leader Councillor Roger Blaney said: “I am very pleased that we can now move forward with this important project which will bring many positive benefits to our customers and residents.
“I share the concerns voiced by some of my colleagues about the frequent traffic congestion on the Great North Road but neither Highways England nor County Council Highways raised any objection to our planning application.
“We will be investing in new, smaller and energy efficient offices which will be more accessible to the public, offer much greater flexibility and will be much cheaper to run. The council will make significant savings while protecting frontline services.”
The council will share the new offices with the Department for Work and Pensions and the council’s housing company, Newark and Sherwood Homes. It is also looking at the possibility of working with other partners from the public and voluntary sector. Earlier this year the council sold the Grade I listed Kelham Hall, the authority’s HQ for the last 40 years, which is costly to run whereas the new offices will be energy efficient.
Newark and Sherwood District Council sold its current headquarters building at Kelham Hall in November 2014 and is moving to new offices in 2017. The move will help save money and ensure that other services the council delivers can be protected. It will also help to improve access to public services where people need to speak to the council or other service providers.
The Policy and Finance Committee agreed to publish some restricted papers in redacted form.
In July 2010 the council considered a number of major changes it could make in order to save money in the face of big public spending reductions which followed on from the economic recession. The ideas for saving money included the possibility of reducing accommodation costs. In 2011 the council started to make changes to the way it uses Kelham Hall and began a market-testing to see whether Kelham Hall could be sold.
In 2013, the council considered an analysis of current running costs of Kelham Hall for sale and to move to new offices. The budgeted running costs for Kelham Hall were just under £640,000 in 2014/15. The cost of running a new energy-efficient office was originally estimated at £205,000 and more recent estimates suggest that at least £420,000 a year could be saved. So there is a considerable annual cost saving available if the council were to sell Kelham Hall and move into a new office.
What will happen to Kelham Hall?
The company, Kelham Hall Ltd, which has bought the building, intends to convert the Hall into a hotel, continuing to build on the weddings and events which they already hold at Kelham Hall. The sale will be completed in 2017 when Kelham Hall Ltd will take over ownership. Kelham Hall will continue to be protected by its Listed Building designation so any changes to the building will have to meet stringent planning and building heritage conservation obligations.
Where will the new offices be?
The council rigorously examined the options for new offices including looking at any existing buildings which could be used. It now has planning permission for locating the new office building on the site next to Castle Station in Newark.
What other options were considered?
The council considered other land available in the Newark area including the former Highways depot site on Kelham Road, a site on Bowbridge Road, a site on Brunel Drive, a site at Fernwood and land on Northgate. The council has also considered a number of existing buildings including the Municipal Buildings on Baldertongate, the current Newark Advertiser buildings, the former Tax Offices on Millgate as well as the scope for a new building on the site of the Robin Hood Hotel. None of these options could accommodate all of the council and would therefore reduce the levels of savings available by building inefficiencies into the way the council would work. The most cost-effective option is a single new building on the site next to Castle Station.
How much will new offices cost?
The estimated cost of building new offices is £6 million, the largest part of which can be funded through the sale of Kelham Hall. It is estimated that the cost of savings which would be available each year would be around £420,000.
What would happen if local government was reorganised and the building wasn't needed anymore?
If local government was reorganised, most of the services and activities housed in the new offices would still need to be provided so any successor organisation would be likely to view a new energy-efficient office as a valuable asset. If the offices weren't needed, they could be sold and it is probable that the value of the offices could be fully recouped, leaving the council tax payer no worse-off. It is clear that Newark is short of modern, good quality office accommodation so there would be options to sell the building, lease it or lease parts of it that weren't required.
In the past, people have been told that Kelham Hall was good value for money so what has changed?
An Audit Commission report in the past identified that the running costs for Newark and Sherwood District Council were good value in comparison with some other councils. That was partly because the council bought Kelham Hall when it was formed after the 1974 local government reorganisation. Many other newly formed councils had to build new civic offices which meant they had to borrow large amounts of money. Kelham Hall had been bought at low cost and without borrowing so Newark and Sherwood District Council had no borrowing overhead.
So while the capital cost for purchasing Kelham Hall was good value, the running costs of the building are relatively high. The council has also contracted since 2010 and no longer needs to occupy such a large building.
What difference will the new offices make for council tax payers?
As well as being cheaper, the new office move provides the opportunity to improve access to public services. The council intends to work with other public service providers including the County Council, Police and Job Centre Plus to ensure people can easily access services they may need. Kelham Hall is remote for many people and is poorly served by public transport. The new offices will be within easy reach for many more people. The council is also working on proposals for improved access to the same services in the council's other two main towns - Ollerton and Southwell.