The cost of creating Sussex’s national park headquarters has doubled in 18 months.

Since coming into force in April 2010, the South Downs National Park Authority (SDNPA) has been the guardian of thousands of acres of countryside stretching from Winchester to Eastbourne.

Nearly three years on, the quango, which has about 100 employees, is still technically homeless.

Bosses have now confirmed the cost of constructing its new headquarters at Grade II-listed Capron House in Midhurst will cost about £3 million.

This is nearly double the cost first announced in September 2010 and about a third of the national park’s total £10.6 million budget for 2013/14.

The funding for the project will come from a dedicated buildings grant that was allocated by the Government when the National Park was designated.

However, the Government-funded organisation said the cost of refurbishing the former Victorian school will be value for money.

A spokeswoman for the authority said: “The South Downs Centre at Capron House is much more than a headquarters for the authority.

“It will be a vital hub for local communities, a base for people who work, partner and volunteer for the national park and a green conference centre.

“The breadth and ambitions of this project have grown since it was first agreed by the authority in 2010 but we remain committed to developing and delivering the highest quality building at the lowest possible cost to the public pocket.

“This is a complex site involving two Grade II-listed buildings, both of which are in need of significant repair. We are now in the process of looking at all elements of the programme to consider where savings can be made.”

Increasing price tag

The authority is currently housed in five rented properties in Petersfield and Midhurst at a cost of £219,000 a year.

A report for the authority in September 2010 said work on the headquarters would cost £1.5 million but by the time the building was bought three months later the projected costs of purchase and renovation had risen to £2 million. 

The price tag has slowly increased with a total cost of £2.87 million being approved in May 2012.

This was to cover extra survey work and additional costs.

Planning permission for the scheme was approved in October and it is expected to open by Christmas.

Insulation, a biofuel heating system and photovoltaic technology will all be installed to make the building as sustainable as possible.

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