Agenda item

Property Accommodation Strategy - Strategic Headquarters: Update and Next Steps March 2022


1.            Mr Oakford introduced the report and advised that the requirement to realise the capital meant that the Council was now committed to moving forward with plans, although the timetable for the project was not yet clear. Mrs Spore presented a series of slides which set out the options and plans for the different parts of the Sessions and Invicta House buildings. These included an artist’s impressions of the proposed residential and business uses of Sessions House blocks A and B, respectively, and the Gensler model proposed for use in Invicta House. The Civic Centre of Sessions House, comprising blocks C and D, would include the Council Chamber, Member areas and group offices as well as housing the Corporate Management Team, Governance, Law and Democracy and meeting space. Logistics would be a major part of the project, and it was planned that work to Invicta House would need to be completed first before Sessions House could be started.  Members, staff and meetings would need to be accommodated at other locations while the work was undertaken. The current planned completion date for the project was August 2024.


2.            Mr Oakford and Mrs Spore then responded to comments and questions from the committee, including the following:-


a)    the retention of a civic function at Sessions House was welcomed;


b)    most speakers were happy to note the proposals at the current time but accepted that plans may have to change in the future. Mr Oakford emphasised the long-term nature of the project and that options such as relocation or purpose-building new premises had been examined and discarded, with a confirmed wish to stay in the county town and have premises fitting of a first-tier authority. Increased remote working arising from the pandemic had changed the need for staff accommodation. Funding had been committed to get the project to RIBA stage 3, at which time the next stage could be planned; and


c)    asked at what point repairs to the current premises would cease to be cost-effective, Mr Oakford assured the committee that he would not have committed to retain part of Sessions House as a civic centre if the Council could not afford the refurbishment costs. Some parts of Sessions House needed considerable maintenance expenditure, to remain operational, and the aim was to seek the most effective option available for the Council.  


3.            The Chair thanked Members for the good range of views expressed and thanked Mr Oakford for being open-minded in listening to the views expressed.


4.            The committee RESOLVED to note:-


a)    the progress and revised design proposal for the refurbishment of both Invicta House and Sessions House blocks C and D;


b)    the intention to review the procurement strategy for engaging a main contractor in respect of the proposed works at Invicta House and Sessions House blocks C and D; and


c)    that a procurement process will commence to explore further the co-working opportunities focusing on block B and that a marketing process will commence in respect of blocks A/E and B, to seek a development partner.


Mr A Brady and Dr L Sullivan asked that their abstentions from this resolution be recorded in the minutes. 

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