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Town hall HQ to go up for sale for £9m in face of cuts
A town hall headquarters on a prime seafront site is to be sold off for £9 million in a cost-cutting move.
As it looks to save money in the face of Government cuts Brighton and Hove City Council will agree a radical proposal to market the Grade II listed King’s House in Grand Avenue, Hove.
The local authority will then invest £16 million in refurbishing Hove Town Hall to re-house hundreds of its 8,000- strong workforce.
With estate agents warning interest will be high some have accused the council of selling off the family silver.
But the local authority maintains the move, which it believes will save it £700,000 a year, was beneficial to the city and its staff.
However, Conservative councillors have called for part of the site to be allocated for a new three-form entry primary school.
The plan has been revealed ahead of a discussion at the council’s policy and resources committee next week.
The local authority had proposed three options: sell off King’s House; sell off 60% of Hove Town Hall and move to another office building in the city; or do nothing. After settling on option A the council and property experts admit its headquarters is most suitable for private and social housing, subject to planning permission.
Phil Graves, of Brighton-based property consultant Graves Jenkins, said he imagined the sale would spark interest from a major housing firmor developer.
He said: “It’s similar to selling off the family silver. They cannot keep on selling things to get capital receipts as eventually they will have nothing left.
“To maximise the value it has to go down the residential road.
“The small problem they will have is that it will be subject to social housing restrictions so a high percentage of units will have to be social housing.”
Mr Graves said conversion into hotel or office space was possible but “unlikely” as there were better options elsewhere.
A former hotel King’s House became the Seeboard head office before it was bought by the council ahead of the creation of Brighton and Hove Council in 1997.
Last year The Argus reported the local authority valued the building at more than £13 million. But bosses have nowadmitted it is more likely to receive about £9 million by selling off the building to developers.
Building work, which could start at the beginning of 2015, is expected to take 18 months. During this time council meetings would be split between Brighton Town Hall and Portslade Town Hall.
The council said the scheme would pay for itself in seven years.
It is the final part of a three-phase programme into improving the efficiency of the council’s places of work.
As part of the final review it will also sell premises in Buckingham Road, Brighton and surrender the lease on a property in Denmark Villas, Hove.
How the £9m would be spent
The money, alongside loans and reserves, would go towards a £16m scheme to refurbish outdated offices and bring empty space into use at Hove Town Hall.
The plans include extending the north wing, creating mezzanine offices in the reception space and converting the banqueting suite into a meeting and training hub.
The council chamber would remain but the local authority said that it would be revamped to create a “more flexible meeting space” for the public and the council.
An underground tunnel linking the building to nearby Norton Road car park could also be brought into use for cycle parking.
To provide additional income, a quarter of Hove Town Hall – which includes the Great Hall and undercroft areas currently occupied by the Citizens Advice Bureau – would be leased commercially for restaurant, retail or leisure use.
What the councillors say
Photo: David McHugh
Green councillor Leo Littman, the council’s lead member for finance, said: “This proposal to move offices will help modernise the council and allow us to better serve the needs of the community.
“Not only will this benefit the people of the city; it will give our staff extra flexibility; allowing them to achieve a better work/life balance. It will also help to improve energy efficiency.”
Conservative councillor Andrew Wealls said: “While we agree that it should be sold, we certainly do not agree with the Greens’ proposals that the proceeds of the sale should be spent entirely on sprucing up other council buildings for staff.
“The shortage of new school places in Hove has now gone beyond crisis point and, therefore, we shall be submitting a proposal at the policy and resources committee meeting that the newer rear part of King’s House should be set aside for a new three-form entry primary school.”
Labour councillor Warren Morgan said: “I'm fortunate to have recently taken up residence in a King’s House office with a sea view, but delivering value for money for council tax payers must come first.”
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