Authority agrees £400,000 purchase of school for HQ

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Councillors have agreed to hand over a vacant school in North Yorkshire at below market value in a move which will see council offices finally brought together on one site.

The Richmond Lower School site will now become the new headquarters for Richmondshire District Council. The possibility of centralising the district 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 in Richmond.

North Yorkshire County Council approved the sale of the Richmond Lower School to the district authority. Members of the county’s executive voted unanimously to sell the site for £400,000 - which is £275,000 below its valuation.

It will be redeveloped to create a base for the district council – the existing offices in Swale House, Frenchgate and Friars Wynd will close and the community office in Dundas Street will be transferred to the new building.

Council bosses say the £2 million scheme not only creates a base for staff but protects one of Richmond’s most iconic buildings. It will also create a base for the voluntary sector and a venue for public meetings, banquets, and weddings in the 16th century school hall.

Coun John Blackie, the leader of the district council, said: “We have been looking for an answer to the current poor office accommodation for the last 10 years.”

He thanked North Yorkshire County Council “for its assistance and generosity in finding us the perfect solution”.

He added: “The stumbling block has always been landing on a site large enough to fit all our needs and yet was in the right location.

“In Richmond Lower School we have a building that allows us to do this, making it much easier for officers, councillors and our customers to have access to one another, and retaining employment in the town and spending power in the nearby Market Place.

“Getting the final go ahead to the scheme means we can start work to develop the site and work towards a grand opening next summer.”

County Councillor Carl Les, deputy leader, said: “This the right thing for Richmondshire District Council which has struggled for decades in sub-standard office accommodation and it is the right thing therefore for Richmondshire’s residents.

“It is the right thing also for the county council as it frees us from liability for the site.”

The sale will also free the county council from responsibility for its maintenance, which currently costs £8,350 a year. In addition, the transfer will be subject to covenants which will ensure the county council receives further payment should the site be developed or sold for profit in future.

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