Pros and cons of Castlewood buy

PUBLISHED: 10:34 27 January 2010 | UPDATED: 11:38 25 May 2010

RE: ACQUISITION of Clerical medical building in Clevedon by north Somerset District Council.

RE: ACQUISITION of Clerical medical building in Clevedon by north Somerset District Council.

I am writing on behalf of Clevedon Chamber concerning the above. It was presented as a 'nil cost' benefit both to Clevedon and North Somerset. Before agreeing or disagreeing with that view it is worth considering the pros and cons of the acquisition.

The first pro is that it will occupy a large, otherwise empty building in a prime location. From that occupation it is anticipated extra trade will flow to the businesses within Clevedon. That is almost unarguably true for the businesses in the immediate vicinity but less obvious for others. The building is not convenient to either of the main shopping areas so that those working in the building would have to travel by vehicle to use them. In reality, will this happen?

The second pro is that it is self-funding, savings being made by closing satellite offices in the nearby towns. Those offices can then be rented or sold. This is the core issue and needs careful scrutiny. What will be lost is the income flow from the business rates payable by HBOS, and payable whether the building is occupied or not. Unless the disposal of the satellite offices both covers this and the capital cost of acquisition, it is not a 'zero sum' equation. Assuming the answer to that question is yes, what evidence is there that there exists an unfulfilled demand for office space in the location of the satellite offices?

North Somerset Council produces a free list of commercial property available to buy or rent in the district and that shows no indication of shortage or of demand equalling, let alone exceeding, supply. The concern is that the vacated offices remain vacant and the anticipated income does not arise in such circumstances the financial burden will fall on the ratepayer, both individual and commercial.

What it is not designed to do is create jobs. Staff will relocate. If any don't because their contract does not require mobility, jobs will be created but, in the short term, at a much greater cost in terms of redundancy payments.

Self-evidently, a commercial occupier would be preferable for many reasons, jobs are more likely to be created, commercial rates are paid and there is more likely to be a general boost to the local economy. More importantly, if the decision is wrong, it is the commercial organisation which bears the risk and the consequences.

DAVID HENDEY

President Clevedon Chamber

Alexandra Road, Clevedon

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