30 September 2014

A final decision on proposals to transform derelict land in Northampton town centre into new energy efficient offices for Northamptonshire County Council will take place at a cabinet meeting next week with building work potentially to start within three months.

The final business case for the plans – known as Project Angel – shows how the council could save millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money by moving out of its existing ageing stock of 12 HQ buildings, which cost £56,000 a week to run, into one purpose-built building in the town centre.

And the business case goes on to describe how bringing 2,000 office workers back into town would boost the town centre economy by at least £12million and probably much more over the next ten years.

What happens next?

At next week’s cabinet meeting councillors are being asked to agree the final business case and, following a rigorous procurement process, agree to appoint design and build contractor Galliford Try to start construction of the new building following the completion of negotiations.

Leader of the council Cllr Jim Harker said: “Project Angel is excellent news for the taxpayers of this county. By investing in the construction of this building we will be bringing in year-on-year savings on the amount of money we have to spend on our buildings.

“Project Angel is also excellent news for Northampton town centre’s economy. This project would see thousands of office workers being brought back into the town centre and with it thousands more people to use the shops and services on offer there. This can only be good news for the county town.”

How much will the project save the council?

With the current buildings – some of which are listed and many of which require significant improvements – the council faces running and day-to-day maintenance costs of £56,000 a week, or £2.9million a year, to simply keep them open. A new purpose-built carbon-friendly office will dramatically reduce these increasing costs to less than £0.9million a year – an annual saving of £2million.

In 30 years time, allowing for inflation, the annual savings in running costs will incrementally increase to £5million a year, which means that over 30 years the running cost savings are forecast to be £96 million.

In addition, when comparing the new build to the existing 12 buildings, there is a further £8million saving on major structural works that would be required to the current stock.

Which buildings are affected?

The business case being discussed shows how, if approval is given, the council would move all its staff out of its current stock of 12 HQ buildings in the town. These are:

  • John Dryden House
  • County Hall
  • Riverside House
  • Century House
  • Ecton Brook Clinic (already closed)
  • Norborough House
  • 9 Guildhall Road (leased out)
  • Briar Hill Centre
  • Wootton Hall Park – trading standards
  • Springfield
  • Northwood (already closed)
  • 6 Angel Street

The business case forecasts that sales of those properties which the council owns would raise more than £13million.

The total cost of Project Angel is £53million, which includes construction costs and fees.

Cllr Bill Parker said: “The full business case clearly shows that this project will deliver very real hard cash benefits to taxpayers through avoiding escalating property costs and also creating income from the sale of our existing buildings.

“This, however, does not take into account the ‘softer’ benefits which moving all our staff into one building will create. There will clearly be benefits of more efficient working, less travel time between locations and operational benefits, but all of this is far harder to put a figure on at this stage. Put another way though, the amount of financial savings and efficiencies which arise from this project are likely to be far greater than described in this report.

“Put that on top of the huge economic benefit of bringing thousands of people back into Northampton town centre and it is clear that this is a win-win project which will save taxpayers money and drive economic growth.”