Developer urges council to stop

PUBLISHED: 09:00 01 January 2010 | UPDATED: 11:30 25 May 2010

NORTH Somerset Council should consider having offices built in Weston as a cheaper alternative to its £16million proposed move to Clevedon, a developer says.

NORTH Somerset Council should consider having offices built in Weston as a cheaper alternative to its £16million proposed move to Clevedon, a developer says.

Buildings to the exact requirements of the unitary authority could be constructed at the Weston Gateway site according to agents, Hartnell, Taylor & Cook.

The firm says it could accommodate the workers at one of the key developments in the growth of the resort, which lies near junction 21 of the M5.

Its head of employment and development, Andrew Batchelor, said: "If the council has any interest in retaining employment in Weston it should be talking to us.

"We can certainly build them a bespoke office and as building costs are good at the moment it would be more than competitive against the Castlewood site."

Mr Batchelor said the offices could be finished and ready for the council to move in by June 2011.

The unitary authority's Conservative majority is due to approve the plan to buy the former Clerical Medical site, in Tickenham Road, at a meeting on Tuesday.

If it is voted through, it would see the council taking a £14million loan to partly-fund the purchase and the Weston offices of hundreds of workers would be closed.

But the exact numbers have been omitted from a report the councillors are being asked to vote on, leaving the project, headed by council leader Nigel Ashton, shrouded in secrecy.

The document, written by head of property and asset management Lyndon Watkins, also seems to rule out building a new office in Weston.

The assertion comes despite the council's own plans for tens of thousands of square feet of offices to be built in the resort over the next 15 years.

It says: "Appropriate sites for viable development are not currently available in the local area.

"However it is recognised that a suitable site may become available as development in the Weston area continues.

"The key issue here is that the delivery of the office accommodation strategy would be delayed whilst waiting for a suitable site to come on the market."

The unitary authority's executive - which has only one Weston-based member - has already backed the plan and approved spending £130,000 to investigate the proposal.

Council chiefs expect to make savings of more than £1million by 2013 if the move goes ahead.

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