A paper going to next week’s Policy & Resources Committee recommends the disposal of the freehold of Kings House in Grand Avenue which has been the headquarters of the Council since it became a unitary authority over 15 years ago. But options for a new HQ are limited by a lack of suitable office space in the city.
Nearly a year after it was first mooted [see earlier story], the recommended option proposes the disposal of Kings House and the transfer of staff and councillors to a refurbished Hove Town Hall in Norton Road [pictured].
If the Town Hall operates at its maximum capacity about a quarter of the building could be released for commercial use with the potential for new housing.
Another option proposes the disposal of about 60% of Hove Town Hall and the purchase another office building somewhere in the city but this is considered to be too expensive and carries greater risks due to the “lack of suitable, sustainable office accommodation in the city”
Approximately 1,400 office based staff would be affected by the recommendation if it is approved.
ECONOMIC PARTMERSHIP COMMENT
In these austere times, that aren't going to get better for local authorities, the plan makes perfect sense and Kings House will attract a lot of interest and a good price [probably in the region of £10m], especially since it is a rare freehold disposal. It will also save the council about £700,000 p.a.
It is telling that the council’s options are limited by the old chestnut of a lack of good quality office space; welcome to the world of businesses in the city who suffer the same problem.
In these uncertain times developers are reluctant to build speculatively without a pre-let tenant so good quality Grade A office space is likely to remain in short supply [and attracting asking rents in excess of £23/square foot] for quite some time.
Of course there are some developers who are prepared to take a punt. The Hove Square scheme in Conway Street proposed by Matsim Properties includes over one hundred thousand square feet of office accommodation suitable for a headquarters type of operation.
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Brighton & Hove City Council
The Hove Centre, Hove Town Hall