New council HQ ‘shows way on reviving old buildings’

DEVELOPERS behind a new multi-million pound headquarters for a Yorkshire council have claimed the long-awaited development will provide a benchmark for bringing the nation’s redundant buildings back into use.

A landmark in the ongoing scheme to create the new base for York Council was marked yesterday with a “topping out” ceremony after the highest point in the construction project was reached.

The scheme to create a centralised base for the council will see West Offices, which were built in the 1840s as York’s original railway station and station hotel, transformed into the state-of-the-art headquarters.

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Sandy Smith, a partner of York Investors LLP, which together with Buccleuch Property and the York-based company S Harrison Developments Ltd, form the development team, claimed the project will provide an inspiration for similar schemes across the country.

He added: “Once completed, the new HQ will provide the benchmark for bringing older buildings back into sustainable use.”

The move to a new headquarters is aimed at slashing the council’s accommodation costs. Having offices scattered throughout the city has sapped finances as half of its premises are leased and rents swallow up £1m a year. The new headquarters will include a customer centre as well as business and staff facilities, and the overall project is expected to cost £43.8m. The move will save taxpayers more than £17m over the next 25 years, with the council shifting operations from 16 buildings to just four premises.

The scheme has escaped the Government’s public sector cutbacks as it will be funded by the sale of council premises and borrowing set off against the cost of existing rents. The new building is expected to be ready in September next year, with a phased move of staff and services up until early 2013.

But the protracted saga of the council’s re-location suffered a major blow after initial blueprints earmarked for the Hungate development were abandoned following concerns from English Heritage. The council was forced to go back to the drawing board and 12 potential schemes were put forward by developers, before the West Offices site was announced as the preferred location in December 2009.