Plans for a radical relocation and downsizing of Warwick District Council’s Leamington headquarters within the town will be up for debate next week.
The authority wants to work with a limited liability partnership (LLP) to sell Riverside House in Milverton Hill for the land to be developed for more than 100 houses and flats and then to build new offices, about 40 flats and a new 650-space car park on the site of the Covent Garden surface and multi-storey car park in Russell Street.
Covent Garden has major structural problems which could be temporarily fixed for £3 million to expand its lifespan by 20 years but the council prefers to replace it with the larger new £9.75 million car park.
With the sale of its land and the creation of the offices, the council says the new car park is the only part of the project which will not be ‘cost neutral’, meaning in effect it is the only part of the plan which will cost the council money.
Riverside House, which has 340 staff working out of it and about 240 working the building at one time, currently costs the council almost £600,000 to run annually and has an estimated bill for repairs of £1 million over the next five years.
The council has estimated that by moving to the new offices, which will be half the size of its current headquarters, it can save about £300,000 in running costs each year.
Cllr Andrew Mobbs, the council’s leader, said: “I am delighted that Leamington town centre will receive this major investment.
“The proposed new office will be more efficient than the current building and this will significantly reduce our running costs.
“In addition, the regeneration work and new car park will ensure that Leamington continues to thrive as a destination for both business and leisure.”
The plans will go before the full council at Leamington Town Hall on Wednesday evening. Councillors will decide whether to proceed with the project which will then enter a design and architecture stage before planning consent is sought.
Should all go to plan for the authority, the new offices could open at the end of 2018.
Riverside Houses’s site could already have building work taking place on it by this time, but the offices would not be demolished until the new building is in place.
Warwick and Leamington Labour Group councillors have said they will be scrutinising the proposal in great detail.
They believe that the figures do not stack up and will be strongly challenging whether there is an actual need to relocate.
Group leader Cllr John Barrott said: “The Labour District councillors’ analysis of the situation is that the relocation is not the best answer to make the proposed savings.
“We are concerned about the risks involved with this scheme.
“There are alternatives that will not only generate the savings required, but could also generate income for the council.
“Our limited financial and staff resources should be concentrated on meeting local needs such as affordable housing, not on a new HQ.
“We will be using this information when we scrutinise the proposal next week.”