Saturday, 10 December 2016

Knowle relocation project: on being 'cost neutral' and 'fit for purpose' and asbestos free >>> comparing the Knowle and Exmouth Town Hall sites

A long time ago, the District Council wanted spanking new offices only - rather than dividing itself between an old building needing loads doing to it in Exmouth and a new building on Honiton's industrial estate. 
But then in November 2014 it changed its mind:
Futures Forum: Knowle relocation project: volte face: the District Council will not be moving to Skypark: "Development at Knowle and changes to destination to be considered by cabinet"

All this change of direction gets rather expensive, but then, the District Council seems rather lackadaisical about money these days:
Futures Forum: The District Council and not bothering about its S106 cash

And meanwhile costs for the relocation project are spiralling out of control:
Futures Forum: Knowle relocation project: of devolution and rising costs

If we compare the Knowle site with the Exmouth Town Hall site...


There is the problem of comparing like with like.
The District Council has declared how much space it 'needs' but has not analysed the different bits of space which it currently occupies and which is says it actually wants in the same way.
The Knowle site is 'divided into two' (the Victorian hotel and the 1980s purpose-built block) and the Exmouth Town Hall will be shared with other service providers - with the Honiton new site considered rather cramp:
Futures Forum: Knowle relocation project: and questions of floor space


This blog has also looked at this issue - back in January 2015:
Futures Forum: Knowle relocation project: "If Knowle is not fit for purpose, do they really think that Exmouth Town Hall is?"

There are many issues involved, including the design of the Exmouth facilities, with Councillors non too happy:

8 APR 2016
True to form, EDDC’s relocation project is not going entirely smoothly.
Wednesday’s Cabinet meeting (6 April) showed cracks already appearing, which the Leadership seemed to merrily paper over.
Long-term Exmouth councillors’ criticism of the planned design of their Town Hall renovation was treated with apparent amusement by Leader Paul Diviani and Chief Officers, Mark Williams and Richard Cohen.
Steve Gazzard (Lib Dem) said the proposed design was not flexible enough, a view echoed by his Tory counterparts, who complained of the “inadequacy of the space to be provided”, and were unhappy that “ all the memorabilia” has had to be taken down. They were also shocked at the possible prospect of having to book, or pay rent , for use of the Council Chamber.

Richard Cohen agreed that “Memorabilia is an issue”, and acknowledged the need for “an organised booking system”, and for what he called “the odd gremlin to be ironed out”. But he had no response to an exasperated Cllr Pauline Stott (Con, Exmouth), whose question showed that rather more than gremlins are involved.
It was proving very difficult, she said, to find alternative premises for staff obliged to move out so the Exmouth Town Hall renovation work could be done. (Estimated time 8-10 months, at a cost of £1m) .“How are YOU getting on with finding somewhere to move out to? I’m wondering if you have found somewhere to move out to?” she repeated.

Gremlins emerging in EDDC relocation plans | East Devon Watch
Futures Forum: Knowle relocation project: deciding to sell >>>>>>>>>> >>> 'overage' and the dangers of selling Knowle short >>> one year on... and further reports


Today, the EDW blog has spotted this little gem, just ahead of next week's Cabinet meeting:

10 DEC 2016
One of the reasons given for increased costs at Exmouth Town Hall – finding asbestos in the building.
One reason given for moving from Knowle – you guessed it – asbestos in the building.
Yes, Minister!

What goes around comes around …. in EDDC la-la land | East Devon Watch


On Wednesday, the relocation project will be considered, through the lens of rendering Exmouth Town Hall fit for purpose:

Relocation Update - Exmouth Town Hall
Financial implications:
This report asks members to approve the refurbishment of Exmouth Town Hall before Gateway 7 is reached in relation to planning permission on the Knowle site. The request is for a budget of £1.669m, this is an increase of £0.408m for this part of the project but overall net costs are expected to still be within the overall relocation budget. 
It is a members’ decision whether to decide to proceed and approve the expenditure of £1.669m on Exmouth Town Hall refurbishment for the operational reasons outlined in this report. This decision needs to be under the clear understanding of the financial risk involved; a worst case position of no capital receipt from the Knowle to offset capital costs and no certainty of the associated savings obtained from operating from a new building in Honiton. 
The borrowing impact on the Council should no receipt be forthcoming at all would be a £1.669m loan requiring an annual payment of £69,000 over 40 years to fully cover off both the loan sum and interest. 
Mitigation against this financial risk is that the Knowle site has been allocated in the Local Plan for housing thereby giving some certainty of a capital receipt, if not now but in the future. Refusal of planning permission for the Pegasus Life proposal will add delay to the project but the Knowle retains a continued Local Plan allocation and capital value as a brownfield site for residential development. On this basis a more reasonable assumption at this point would be the requirement of short term financing until a receipt is forthcoming. On that basis assuming a 3 year period of short term financing this would incur an annual cost of £18,000 a year being interest only, if alternatively internal funds were used this would result in a loss of interest equating to £14,000 a year. 
Gateway 7 will need to be considered before any future Heathpark build is progressed and this will take into account overall project costs, but members need to be mindful in adopting the recommendations in this 3 report that part of the project will already be in progress. 
The Council has confirmed the retention of Exmouth Town Hall as an asset in the Town. It is therefore worth reflecting that had a much needed refurbishment request been presented to members as a separate project in its own right for capital budget approval it is likely to have gained significant support as it is seen as a key asset to service delivery and likely to have been given a high priority.

Exmouth Town Hall
1. Building surveys have identified that ETH is in need of significant repair and updating works including the extensive replacement of utilities and services.

Financial Position 
The latest cost figures for the refurbishment of Exmouth Town Hall are £1,669,000. This is an increase of £408,441 on the previous estimate of £1,260,559. The key reasons for the increase are: 
 The previous figure was an estimated cost without full survey and confirmed contractor figures. The refined cost reflects the detailed building investigations, requirements of the planning authority and the actual price negotiated with the contractor 
The Town Hall is an old building combining different extensions over time. Costing the works on an existing building is less predictable than new build. Expectations that some existing services could be retained have not been met and detailed surveys and investigations of the building have shown it to be in need of full services replacement alongside repair, redecoration and structural improvements. Key additional cost elements are: ...

Recommendation and risk 
In light of the above, there is a sound justification for progressing the refurbishment of ETH ahead of a future resolution for the sale of the Knowle and is a position that the Office Accommodation Executive Group wish the Council to consider. 
This does present a financial risk if the sale of the Knowle continues to be delayed or because the business case overall is not viable and Members conclude at a future point that they are not persuaded by the financial and betterment analysis to proceed with relocation. In either of these cases, and subject to approval of the recommendation to accelerate ETH investment, the Council will be agreeing to commit to ETH spend but without a capital receipt to pay for it. In this situation, the investment in refurbishment of ETH will have to come from reserves or borrowing. In addition it still remains reasonable to maintain the expectation of a capital receipt at a point in the future given that the site is now allocated in the Local Plan for residential development and the desire and need of the Council to move from the Knowle. 
To give Members further reassurance, the current budget and income projections for the project overall (taking Exmouth and Heathpark) remain balanced with the continued expectation of significant betterment on relocation overall when compared to remaining at Knowle. 
Should Members agree to the refurbishment of ETH then, as part of our Worksmart and mobile working strategy, we will be allocating a capacity of 90 desks to ETH. To reflect this transfer we will be able to reduce active office floor space at the Knowle we will use the opportunity to close down office space in the Knowle complex. 


Questions other than the obvious 'Why didn't anyone see the extra 40% needed? question include:

> What will happen 'if the sale of the Knowle continues to be delayed'? 
Futures Forum: Knowle relocation project: District Council to defy Information Commissioner - and to take FOI requests to Tribunal >>> press release

> What will happen 'if the business case overall is not viable'?
Business case for Knowle relocation project - a Freedom of Information request to East Devon District Council - WhatDoTheyKnow
Relocation from the Knowle - a Freedom of Information request to East Devon District Council - WhatDoTheyKnow

> Why take on a loan for forty years for a  refurbishment which might last 10-15 years?
Futures Forum: Knowle relocation project: of devolution and rising costs

> Why no reference to what the Local Plan actually specifies, namely that the Knowle site has provision for 50 dwellings of which 50% must be affordable, which is not what the current preferred developer wants:
PegasusLife proposal for Knowle contravened “almost all of the relevant Strategies in the Local Plan”, EDDC Planning Committee was told. | Save Our Sidmouth

For that matter, where is the 'relocation project' to Exmouth/Honiton or Skypark or wherever in the Local Plan?
REPRESENTATION TO LOCAL PLAN - final version - vision group for sidmouth - 14jan13

Lastly, what exactly is the District Council's 'Worksmart and mobile working strategy'?
Costs of Knowle Relocation Project - a Freedom of Information request to East Devon District Council - WhatDoTheyKnow

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