County Hall move to new site is set for approval

An artist's impression of what the new Northumberland County Hall may look like.
An artist's impression of what the new Northumberland County Hall may look like.

The case for moving County Hall from Morpeth to Ashington has been made in a new report.

Details have also been revealed about the specification for the potential new building, which includes a new customer service centre, café, meeting rooms, workspaces and a council chamber that could double as a community theatre, conference hall or cinema space.

The report by chief executive Steven Mason recommends that the county council approves the relocation and allocates £34.4million to cover the shell and core of the building, the internal fit-out works and car parking.

It says that this is the best long-term option in terms of finances, despite having the highest ‘servicing capital’ figure, because a saving of almost £13million will be made over 25 years through moving staff from seven premises occupied by the authority in Ashington to the new headquarters and disposing of the properties or terminating the lease.

The reduction in size of the existing County Hall in Loansdean and works to bring it up to modern standard is said to be £3.64million more expensive during this period.

Figures have been updated following a review carried out last year, but critics who believe that not enough work has gone into the refurbishing the current headquarters option are unlikely to change their mind as no further details on this are included.

The report also includes the following: ‘There are approximately 1,660 staff based at the County Hall campus and Ashington buildings, with almost everyone having a dedicated workstation.

‘New ways of working and other changes will reduce the council’s requirement within its corporate headquarters to around 910 flexible workstations, which will require 45 per cent less space than currently used’.

The report will be discussed by the authority’s economic growth and corporate services overview and scrutiny committee on Wednesday.

One of its members is Morpeth Kirkhill councillor Andrew Tebbutt, who has previously stated that he is ‘politically opposed’ to the move.

“We will now analyse the detail of the report and I’m sure that we will have a lot of questions to ask in relation to it,” he said.

If the move is approved by full council on Wednesday, December 2, construction could start as early as August 2016 – with staff moving in by September 2018.

Last week, the council announced proposals to convert the current County Hall site into state-of-the-art buildings for four Morpeth schools and a new leisure centre.

Grant Davey, leader of Northumberland County Council, said: “These plans are part of our efforts to benefit communities across Northumberland.”

New ways of working and other changes will reduce the council’s requirement within its corporate headquarters to around 910 flexible workstations, which will require 45 per cent less space than currently used’.

The report will be discussed by the authority’s economic growth and corporate services overview and scrutiny committee on Wednesday.

One of its members is Morpeth Kirkhill councillor Andrew Tebbutt, who has previously stated that he is ‘politically opposed’ to the move.

“We will now analyse the detail of the report and I’m sure that we will have a lot of questions to ask in relation to it,” he said.

If the move is approved by full council on Wednesday, December 2, construction could start as early as August 2016 – with staff moving in by September 2018.

Last week, the council announced proposals to convert the current County Hall site into state-of-the-art buildings for four Morpeth schools and a new leisure centre. Grant Davey, leader of Northumberland County Council, said: “These plans are part of our efforts to benefit communities across Northumberland.”