Authority’s purchase of school is given the green light

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A LANDMARK decision has been made which will see the council offices in Richmond finally brought together at one site.

Councillors last night unanimously approved the purchase of the vacant Richmond Lower School site, which will become the new headquarters for Richmondshire District Council.

The possibility of centralising the council’s operations was first mooted in the 1980s and this will be first time in the authority’s 38-year history that services are located together on one site.

Coun John Blackie, leader of Richmondshire District Council, told the Yorkshire Post the move would cost £1.9m, with the money raised through the sale of existing council buildings.

He also said he hoped work would start on refurbishing and converting the school buildings in November, with a possible moving date set for August next year.

“The search has gone on since the 1980s, when we started looking for a one-stop shop for our council offices, so we’ve hardly been Speedy Gonzales.

“But it’s finally getting there. We’ve certainly had some rollercoasters along the way but we’re there now and it’s very exciting.”

He added: “I believe this is one project which we can quite honestly say is not just win-win, but win-win-win for everybody.

“We’re really looking forward to getting our teeth into it and indeed cutting the pink ribbon in nine or 10 months time.”

The Yorkshire Post revealed in June that the Government had paved the way for a deal to be struck when the Department for Education gave the go-ahead for the site to be decommissioned as an educational building.

The council’s plans for the building include installing ramped access from Station Road and a new front entrance, along with cycle parking and disabled access.

The redevelopment will include eco-friendly technology such as solar panels, as well as double glazing and cavity wall insulation.

The proposed move will be funded from the sale of existing council buildings at Swale House, Frenchgate and Friars Wynd.

The Richmond Community Office, which is leased by the council, will also close, with the relocation creating a base for community groups, as well as a banqueting hall for weddings, meetings and conferences.

The lower school buildings have been vacant since Richmond’s lower and upper schools moved onto the same site as part a £32m redevelopment, which was officially opened by Lord Coe during the Olympic torch relay in June.