Wednesday, 30 April 2008

Council cabinet considers backtracking on non-demolition of offices

THE future of West Somerset Council’s current offices in Williton will be reconsidered when the authority’s cabinet meets next Wednesday (May 7).
The council’s purpose-built new offices nearby in Killick Way are nearing completion and staff expect to move in during early June
Previously, the cabinet agreed not to demolish the existing offices and to place the buildings on the open market for sale.
However, having learned more about the risks associated with such a move, and the provision of replacement car parking, cabinet members will next week be recommended to have the property demolished after all.
Risks which have now come to light include:
  • The retention of the building could have a negative impact on the original works programme and on other planned work
  • Leaving the building as it is, irrespective of its end use, is likely to lead to a demand for increased car parking on site which might exceed the amount which could be provided by purchasing other nearby land – whereas, if demolished, the site will be used to replace car parking spaces
  • The retention of the building would require a retrospective planning application for non-compliance with a previously approved planning condition, and although normal planning processes cater for such a situation it was not considered to be good practice

In addition, if the building was retained and a temporary non-compliance approval granted, there would be a significant risk that a satisfactory deal could not be negotiated concerning the purchase of additional car parking land.
The council could then find itself in permanent breach of the condition.
This, in turn, might mean that even if temporary non-compliance approval was agreed, the council could find itself under extreme pressure to pay more than acceptable for additional car parking land and/or accept offers less than reasonable for the building.
The cabinet meeting will be held at 6.30 pm in the in the Council Chamber, Williton, and recommendations from it will then be put to the full council at its annual meeting on Wednesday, May 14.

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