Council could yet create a new HQ

A new headquarters for Northumberland County Council could be created in Ashington as part of wider plans to regenerate the town.

The council is currently considering plans to sell off County Hall in Morpeth and move the 1,400 staff to nine other sites around the county.

But a report due before the council’s policy board next Tuesday sets out the latest on the proposals, with the preferred option being a new smaller corporate headquarters in Ashington.

A detailed report is due back before the board in October.

Council leaders are considering selling off County Hall – potentially for new houses – due to the high costs involved, with an anticipated £44m needed over the next 25 years to make it efficient and suitable for continued occupation.

Development company Arch has been asked to draw up an investment plan for Ashington, focused on a major office-led, mixed-use redevelopment of the ‘North East Quarter’, with the assumption the council’s headquarters will form an anchor use, housing up to 1,000 staff.

The report said: “Locating the council’s corporate headquarters in Ashington North East Quarter would offer the opportunity to redevelop the current County Hall site (subject to planning) and generate a significant capital receipt.

“Further detailed work is now required to confirm the initial conclusions of the options report.”

The report added: “New offices offer the opportunity to benefit from lower running costs and to create a more flexible environment for new ways of working.

“A new building built to high environmental standards would reduce the council’s running costs, in particular its energy use and carbon footprint.”

It also stated that moving to new premises could improve technology use; reduce costs, travel and carbon emissions from staff; and increase staff productivity and job satisfaction.

There would also be more emphasis on mobile technology and sharing workstations, with the number of workstations at the proposed smaller corporate headquarters being between 500 and 750 – a reduction of the 1,200 workstations needed at County Hall.

County Hall – which has an energy bill of £450,000 a year – is in need of major repairs including new lifts, roofing and lighting.