Proposed decision to:
a) AGREE that the political priorities in any preferred option for the future of Sessions House include:
i. The retention of the County Council’s strategic headquarters in Maidstone
ii. The modernisation and expansion of Invicta House as the main staff accommodation hub for Maidstone with office hubs located in other districts sized accordingly.
iii. The provision of civic accommodation in Sessions House Block C and D (Central Core)
b) AGREE to allocate £2,082,000 from the capital feasibility MTFP allocation to enable the further testing and the development of a detailed financial and legal assessment and feasibility work to RIBA stage 3 for the preferred option before final detailed proposals are provided to Cabinet for a final decision to be taken.
AGREE that the Director of Infrastructure shall work with key stakeholders to test the feasibility of future alternative uses for Sessions House with detailed proposals (financially and legally assessed) to be included as part of the proposals at b above.
The Executive believe that Sessions House requires significant investment to address the building condition issues, deliver accommodation which is fit for purpose and meets our environmental commitments.
An options appraisal was undertaken based on the pre-pandemic working styles during early 2020. It was agreed that this would be revisited, taking into account the changes in the way that we need to work post pandemic and a new accommodation model has been developed which allows a number of new options to be considered.
The Executive have considered the options, the key policy drivers and subject to the more detailed financial and technical due diligence, have selected a Preferred Option, which will see investment in Invicta House as the key staff hub in Maidstone, with Members’ accommodation being provided from the civic core in Block C and D in Sessions House. The remaining key offices across the estate will be sized accordingly. Blocks A and B (the wings) of Sessions House will be considered as part of the wider master planning along with Maidstone East.
Decision type: Key
Reason Key: Expenditure or savings of more than £1m;
Decision status: Recommendations Approved
Division affected: (All Division);
Notice of proposed decision first published: 08/07/2021
Anticipated restriction: Part exempt - View reasons
Explanation of anticipated restriction:
Decision due: Not before 6th Aug 2021 by Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Finance, Corporate and Traded Services
Reason: To allow for the normal statutory notice period
Lead member: Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Finance, Corporate and Traded Services
Lead director: Rebecca Spore
Contact: Andrew Chauvin, Capital Commissioning Consultant Email: Andrew.Chauvin@kent.gov.uk.
The proposed decision was considered and endorsed by Policy & Resources Cabinet Committee on 13 July 2021.
Financial implications: Net Present Value for the options has been calculated to date on an initial financial assessment, a range of assumptions and high-level indicative cost estimates. Further financial due diligence is being undertaken to ensure consistency of approach and calculations for all options considered together with a review of the qualitative assessments. The feasibility work to RIBA stage 3 will provide more detail of capital and revenue costs which will then be assessed to ensure value for money is achieved. The capital programme includes an allocation which can be used to support the feasibility work to RIBA stage 3 for Invicta House and Sessions House. To support the development of other uses at Sessions House a bid has been made to the Community Renewal Fund, to secure funding to support the feasibility work to look at alternative options for Sessions House within the wider context of the Maidstone East Redevelopment. The outcome of the bid is expected to be known after July 2021.
Legal implications: Investment is required in Sessions House to achieve minimum statutory compliance if it were to reopen. The proposed option will meet the Council’s obligations to its staff in terms of accessibility, inclusion and its environmental objectives. Paragraph C of the decision will require a legal assessment of the options and ownership that will be included in any final decisions that are taken. Work to current properties will require the usual statutory approvals associated with building projects and will follow the Council’s governance processes.
Equalities implications: An EqIA has been undertaken which indicates that the proposals have no adverse impact. It should be noted that Sessions House is one of the most challenging buildings in the estate when it comes to accessibility of users and this decision will enable a greater level of compliance.