Future of HQ building to be discussed
Our Cabinet will discuss proposals for our headquarters and civic and office accommodation requirements at a meeting next week.
In June 2021, Cabinet agreed to review the future use of the building constructed on The Sands, and to consider whether a business case could be established for an alternative accommodation strategy.
Now that the review work has been concluded, Cabinet will be asked to agree to the sale of the building to Durham University, which is seeking accommodation for use as a business school in the city.
Cabinet is also being asked to agree a business case for our office and civic accommodation to be located at Aykley Heads in Durham City, along with office accommodation in Stanley.
The proposals, if agreed, will provide a number of economic benefits, with the costs of the construction and the alternative accommodation strategy being more than offset by the proceeds of the sale of the building. The plans would enhance opportunities for the development of Aykley Heads as a strategic employment site and it is anticipated that the provision of office accommodation in Stanley town centre will help to further regenerate the town.
Ensuring good value for money
The proposed sale of The Sands building to the university would be subject to planning approval, with a decision by the County Planning Committee expected in July. In line with previous reports, it is also recommended that should the university not progress with the purchase within a specified time period, we should occupy the building.
Cllr Richard Bell, Cabinet member for finance, said: "The driving factors behind this work are ensuring that we provide good value for money for the authority and that any decisions we make are in the best interests of the county's residents.
"We believe that the proposal to sell the building at The Sands to Durham University would achieve four aims: coupled with the redevelopment of the DLI Museum and Art Gallery, it would kick-start the wider development of the Aykley Heads strategic employment site; it would secure the university's new business school in the heart of the city, bringing significant economic and commercial benefits - the university is a globally-ranked Russell Group university and is of considerable importance to the county's economy and we are pleased to be working in partnership with it.
"Our proposals will bring the former Customer Access Point at Stanley back into use, again bringing economic and commercial benefits; and the sale will give us a surplus which we can invest across the county.
"That's a good deal in anybody's money and is further proof of Cabinet's bold and ambitious vision for the future of our county."
The review also recommended that a business case be developed to look at alternative options for office accommodation and civic space for us.
The business case considered a range of buildings around the county, including a number in private ownership as well as those already within our portfolio. It was found that no one building could provide suitable or adequate accommodation to meet the requirements for civic space.
New facilities for city's businesses
The report to Cabinet sets out an approach for new civic space on Plot D at Aykley Heads, which would incorporate much-needed conference facilities for the city's businesses.
Additional office accommodation would be provided via a new building already under construction on Plot C of the site, and the refurbishment of the former Stanley Customer Access Point, which is currently vacant.
Cllr James Rowlandson, Cabinet member for resources, investment and assets, said: "We have considered the options for our future office and civic accommodation requirements and have set out a business case for a new approach.
"Building a large development at Aykley Heads would significantly reduce the space available for development by other investors. However, the proposal for a smaller civic space with office accommodation elsewhere on the site would ensure that opportunities for the future redevelopment of Aykley Heads as a strategic employment site can be maximised. We can do this by committing public sector jobs to the site and enhancing facilities available to the private sector through the provision of conference facilities.
"The use of the former Stanley Customer Access Point supports our broader levelling up agenda and will provide a kick-start for opportunities for further private sector investment in the area."