Mon, 20 Feb 2017
WEST Berkshire Council is considering selling its Market Street offices for housing and moving to Bayer’s offices.
Papers accidentally published by Slough Borough Council reveal that informal discussions have taken place about the possibility of relocating, in a bid to reduce running costs by around £2.8m.
The proposed move could see the council share a building with other public sector organisations, including the police, probation service, Job Centre, Ministry of Justice and Sovereign Housing.
Newbury fire station, which is due to be refurbished, is also being touted as a possible location for the new office.
Plans to redevelop Market Street, where the council’s offices are located, and build 225 homes, have already been approved.
The council estimates that another 85 homes could be built on the site of its current offices.
A recent council report also mooted the possibility of developing affordable homes on its own land as a priority.
Any co-location could also see Newbury Police Station sold to make way for more homes.
West Berkshire Council leader Roger Croft recently said that the discussions were speculative as the council does not own the Bayer site.
He did, however, say that there was a move towards moving public sector services into the same building.
The idea is the brainchild of the newly-formed Berkshire Property Partnership, a mixture of local government and public sector service providers, who are looking at ways of using their property assets more effectively.
The partnership says that relocation would improve the efficient use of West Berkshire Council’s own buildings.
It adds that it would free up land in the centre of Newbury for new housing development, reduce revenue operational costs and generate capital receipts from sale of released sites.
Bayer announced it is moving its 400 staff from its West Street offices, its UK headquarters for the past 34 years, to Green Park in Reading.
The council was widely criticised for allowing the pharmaceutical company, one of the district’s largest employers, to leave the town.
Bayer’s lease expires in 2018 and it originally said its preferred new site was the London Road Industrial Estate in Newbury.
However, delays to the planned regeneration of the area meant that such a move was not possible.
A spokesperson for West Berkshire Council, Peta-Stoddart-Crompton said that the council was not presently planning to move offices but “are always looking at options to deliver better value to taxpayers”.