Plans to sell off County Durham Council’s HQ and create thousands of private sector jobs could move a step closer if council chiefs agree to the next stage of the proposal.
The council’s cabinet members agreed in principle last July to free up the Aykley Heads site for business investors and job creation – something that would involve the council moving from its current base at County Hall to a smaller HQ in a city centre location.
On July 13, cabinet will be brought up to date on the work undertaken to develop the outline business case for vacating the Aykley Heads site and members will be asked to agree to the start of a full business case which would then then be considered again at a later meeting – ahead of any final decision being made next year.
It is estimated vacating the site would enable a redevelopment over the next 15 years with the potential for massive job creation and economic investment.
Following the decision by Atom Bank to set up its HQ on Aykley Heads there has been very encouraging interest in the site and to kick-start the development opportunities the council will also consider purchasing Salvus House safeguarding and creating hundreds of jobs and paving the way for a business incubator on this prime site.
However, for this to happen the council would have to relocate its HQ in the city, so taking the next steps in that process is seen as a very significant move.
Aykley Heads has already become an established employment site, housing over 30 businesses with accounting firm Mazars and the NHS being among those recently locating there. The potential purchase by the council of Salvus House for use as a business incubator would create up to another 200 direct jobs with a further 500 indirectly.
A relocation of the council’s HQ would also mean that the development of four refurbished strategic sites around the county will continue at Seaham, Meadowfield, Green Lane in Spennymoor and Crook – in addition to a potential new stand-alone records office and archives.
Coun Neil Foster, cabinet member for economic regeneration and culture, said: “The move represents a once in a generation opportunity to create thousands of jobs for County Durham and put hundreds of millions of pounds into the local economy.
“This decision is much more than the council simply moving into a new building and reducing its ongoing costs, but will pave the way for investment that will bring more and better jobs for the residents of County Durham; the benefits of freeing up a strategic employment site have the potential to be a true game-changer for the county.”
If cabinet agrees to the full business case being prepared, a reserve option of the council building a new headquarters on land it already owns in Durham City will be retained as a viable alternative as well as to offer a comparison to ensure the preferred option delivers best value.
The council would aim to prepare the full business case for autumn 2017 to allow Cabinet to make a final decision.