Monday, 3 April 2017

Knowle relocation project: Cabinet to consider 'options' as costs spiral even further: part two >>> Weds 5th March

Should Councillors be concerned at the continuing rise in cost of proposals for relocating?
Futures Forum: Knowle relocation project: Cabinet to consider 'options' as costs spiral even further >>> Wednesday 5th March

The agenda for Wednesday's Cabinet meeting seems rather blazé about the matter:


1 APR 2017

Owl says: no austerity cuts for our councillors – and, no, this is NOT an April Fool joke – unfortunately.

“The Deputy Chief Executive – Development, Regeneration and Partnerships is delegated authority, in consultation with the Office Accommodation Executive Group, to commence works and deliver the new HQ building.

A budget is agreed of £8,692,000 to provide a new HQ building at Honiton Heathpark, which when added to the approved Exmouth Town Hall refurbishment budget of £1,669,000 gives a total gross budget of £10,361,000.

If Cabinet agrees that it wishes to relocate to a new HQ in Honiton then Cabinet is asked whether it wishes to recommend approval of a further sum of £225,000 to fund the addition of a direct access road to the new HQ building past the East Devon Business Centre This is a more direct approach to the building rather than bringing traffic through the Heathpark business park south of the building and does not affect the conclusions in this report in relation to viability and ranking of options for the sale of the Knowle site.”


Another £225,000 demanded to fund £9 million relocation cost | East Devon Watch

With more comment from the EDA:
EDDC relocation costs £10.3 million and counting … | East Devon Watch

And from the Western Morning News:

'Go now' East Devon HQ relocation plan recommended as costs top £10m

By DanielClark | Posted: April 03, 2017

The Knowle

East Devon District Council are being advised to go ahead with their relocation from Sidmouth, despite not having a buyer for their current Knowle HQ. The council decided to relocate its headquarters in March 2015 to new offices in Honiton and Exmouth and to finance the move, East Devon District Council had agreed to sell its Knowle headquarters to Pegasus Life Ltd for £7.5m.

But, those plans had been thrown into jeopardy when a planning application by Pegasus Life for a 113-apartment assisted-living community for older people was refused by the council's planning committee by seven votes to six at a meeting on Tuesday, December 6. It is understood that Pegasus Life are set to launch an appeal against the refusal of the plans.

East Devon District Council's cabinet on Wednesday are being recommended to sign off nearly £9m to press ahead with the building work at Honiton's Heathpark. This is in addition to the £1.7m already approved for the refurbishment of Exmouth Town Hall.

If a budget is agreed of £8,692,000 to provide a new HQ building at Honiton Heathpark by the cabinet on Wednesday night, which when added to the approved Exmouth Town Hall refurbishment budget of £1,669,000 gives a total gross budget of £10,361,000 for the scheme.

Exmouth Town Hall

The cabinet are being recommended that they should recommend to full council that they proceeds with the construction of a new HQ building at Honiton Heathpark – one of three options that are outlined.

Option one is to take forward the construction of a new Honiton HQ in anticipation of an acceptable combination of capital receipt and prudential borrowing, which would see work completed as soon as December 2018.

Option two is to delay relocation from the Knowle pending the resolution of appeal into plans for the Knowle and/or new site marketing to secure a new development proposal and planning permission, but would not see a move occur until August 2020.

Option three is to complete the Exmouth Town Hall refurbishment and invest in essential repair and modernisation of a reduced area of Knowle office space, which would cost around £1.9m.

Members of the cabinet are being advised to choose the 'go-now' option that would commit the funds to the construction of the new Honiton H, despite the uncertain future as the council no longer has the £7.5m from the sale of the Knowle guaranteed.

The report says: "Retaining the Knowle offices and not building a new HQ at Honiton carries costs in terms of essential repairs and maintenance as a minimum. Modernisation of part of the Knowle offices in a manner that makes the offices fit for future local government such that the Council can operate effectively.

"If the Council wishes to be in control of a project as important and transformational as relocation then it needs to address the case to uncouple the project from the sale of the Knowle site and the planning process.

"The Council needs to consider risk in terms of the probability of sale of the Knowle site, the value of the Knowle site and the associated borrowing requirement. At the same time the Council needs to consider risk in terms of not moving forward with the development of the new HQ at Honiton not least in terms of organisational performance, service flexibility and construction cost inflation. "Staying at the Knowle, even in part, carries with it a high level of compromise, impracticality, expense and risk for a public service provider seeking to optimise its service quality and cost efficiency across the district.

"The delay or deferral of moving from the Knowle pending a future planning permission and sale of the site brings with it uncertainty and additional expense. Inflation in terms of the construction contract costs is obvious. The energy costs of the Knowle will continue to be an expensive waste. The Council will do minimum repair to the site or alternately have to invest in major items if there is a significant failure and repair requirement among the identified liabilities.

"It was the Council's original intent to 'back to back' the sale of the Knowle with the commencement of development of new and refurbished offices. This has not been possible to date and an evolved approach is needed.

"The operational and strategic arguments for relocation to Exmouth and Honiton remain. The continuation and/or perpetuation of the Council's residency in its current premises is increasingly impractical in terms of cost, modern office working and service delivery. A solution that involves the Knowle either temporarily or permanently involves risk and compromise.

"On the basis of this and previous reports, Council decisions to date and the findings of the conclusions from Grant Thornton it is the recommendation of officers that Option 1 is pursued and that the Council moves forward with a new build HQ at Honiton with the subsequent sale of the Knowle site."

The council will move out of its current premises in Sidmouth to purpose-built offices in Honiton and to Exmouth Town Hall, which will be refurbished.

The relocation to Exmouth is due to take place during the latter part of next year, with relocation to the new purpose built offices in Honiton to follow by spring 2018.

But the proposed move has been controversial with campaigners saying that the council should stay at its current Sidmouth base.

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