A ceremony to mark the ground-breaking at the site of Northumberland County Council’s new headquarters in Ashington took place this afternoon.
In December, Arch, the council’s development company, Arch, the authority’s development company, awarded the contract to Galliford Try Building Limited. The new building will cost £32million and will form part of the wider Portland Park development in the centre of the town.
The project is expected to provide up to 220 construction jobs over the next two years and, of these, at least 55 will be new jobs or apprenticeship opportunities for local people.
The council's leadership says that the scheme, which involves a smaller and more cost-effective headquarters, is based on a invest to save principle which will save the authority £630,000 a year and almost £16million over the next 25 years – compared to staying at its current site.
But councillors who have opposed the scheme have said the quoted costs should also include the amounts to be spent on the new road infrastructure, utilities infrastructure and additional parking facilities. They also believe that a refurbishment to create a smaller HQ in Morpeth would not be as expensive as the new build in Ashington.
Northumberland County Council leader Grant Davey said: "This is a welcome next step in our market towns initiative to regenerate and improve Northumberland’s towns. We’re pleased to have started work on the scheme which is for the benefit of the town, the county and the wider region."
Ian Lavery, MP for Wansbeck, added: "This is going to be a landmark development for Ashington and represents a serious, long-term and major commitment by creating a superb new town centre environment for local people, creating hundreds of jobs. I am excited to see the plans to revitalise Ashington continuing at pace."
However, leader of Northumberland Conservatives, Coun Peter Jackson, said: “The Conservative Group has been the only group on Northumberland County Council to point out consistently that this new County Hall project in Ashington is a monumental waste of money entered into for political reasons by a council which claims to be cash-strapped. People up and down Northumberland are rightly very angry about this at a time when essential services are under pressure.”
The five-storey purpose built office building will feature space for 910 work stations, conference facilities and publicly-accessible meeting rooms. In addition, it will include a customer service centre by the main entrance and a cafe and rest room that can incorporate public access. The building has been designed to use 30 per cent less carbon than a traditional office.
Arch is leading on the delivery of the Ashington Investment Plan - a ten-year programme that will bring 2,000 high-quality jobs to the heart of Ashington, transforming the look and feel of the town centre. The Ashington Investment Plan is one of the biggest regeneration development opportunities in the North East.