Artist’s impressions have been released showing the bold vision of how the new County Hall could look, if plans to relocate the Northumberland council base from Morpeth to Ashington are agreed.
And the authority has also revealed its intention to build a state-of-the-art school and leisure complex on the current site, if the move goes ahead.
Forming part of the wider Portland Park development in Ashington, the proposed HQ – around half the current size of the existing one in Morpeth – would be located in the town centre and accommodate around 1,300 staff over five storeys, including those already based in Ashington.
Detailed specification for the new County Hall includes a new customer service centre, café, meeting rooms, workspaces and an innovative council chamber which could double as a community theatre, conference hall or cinema space.
The new HQ will provide open plan, flexible work areas for staff who will be equipped to work from any of the council’s properties. The authority says this would provide services much closer to residents and enable more effective work. The current County Hall relocation estimates puts the cost at just over £33m, with a projected long-term economic benefit for the area of around £89m.
If the move is approved by full council on December 2, construction could start as early as August 2016, with staff moving in by September 2018.
Opponents of the relocation scheme have previously voiced their concerns.
Grant Davey, leader of the county council, said: “It is great to see the latest images of the proposed new building, which show what a modern office suitable for the 21st Century can look like.
“If approved, the plans would usher in a new era of flexible working for staff. With fewer staff it is crucial they deliver services in a much more effective way, enabling them to make the best use of their time to benefit residents. However, the proposal for a new HQ is only a part of a much wider picture.”
Earlier this week, the council announced ambitious proposals which could see the current County Hall plot being developed for new state-of-the-art school buildings on the same site as a new leisure centre, which would have the shared use of the public and students.
The current proposals centre on new buildings for King Edward VI High School (KEVI), Chantry and Newminster Middle Schools and Morpeth First School together with the new leisure centre and are subject to the agreement of the schools.
Decisions would still need to be taken separately by the schools involved, the Foundation Governors of KEVI and the council as to whether these proposals were feasible and provided the right educational solution for current and future pupils in Morpeth.
Initial estimates suggest a possible build cost of around £50m which could bring up to £189m into the local economy.
There are similar proposals for Ponteland, which would see new school buildings for Ponteland High School, Ponteland Middle School and Darras Hall First School on a shared site with public leisure facilities on land to the east of the existing Ponteland High and Middle schools.