Ambitious plans to sell off all the council’s landmark buildings and develop a new purpose- built base at Knapping Mount at a cost of up to £9m look set to go ahead.
Harrogate Council’s cabinet voted unanimously to support the plans at a meeting last night (Wednesday June 19).
Two options had been considered with cabinet favouring moving staff from five sites across the town to a new purpose built base at Knapping Mount.
The existing Knapping Mount offices and temporary buildings would be demolished.
Coun Anthony Alton, Conservative Leader of the council said: “We want to keep council tax down and to do that we need to look at every aspect of our business.”
It has been estimated that the cost of running all five current sites amounts to £712,000 a year and that building a new site at Knapping Mount would cost between £7.9m and £8.9m.
Coun Alton said: “Many people say that the council should behave more as a business would. No business would have its operation constructed in such a costly way.”
“It will bring greater efficiencies for the organisation together with the highest environmental and sustainability standards to minimise energy use.
He added: “On all counts it will save real cash which will benefit council tax payers and there will be no external borrowing to fund it.”
The cabinet had considered a second option of consolidating council offices from five buildings to three, with an estimated price tag of £4.8m.
Ahead of last nights meeting Coun Alton said: “Having considered all the evidence for both options and the efficiencies and improvements they will bring, Cabinet is likely to recommend to the full council that the best option for the council and its residents is new purpose built office accommodation on the site at Knapping Mount.”
Harrogate Borough Council Liberal Democrats have raised concerns over the plans.
Leader of the Lib Dem group Coun Philip Broadbank said: “What it is important for the council to do is to work out the relative cost/beneﬁt analysis of a move onto a new site that is at a distance from the centre of town.
“No options should be ruled out in the current economic climate. Any savings that might occur from a new-build site appear to be a long way down the line and uncertain.”
Coun Alton emphasised: “The scheme to move to Knapping Mount will be paid back in a relatively short period.”
Coun Ivor Fox, Cabinet member for finance and resources told the meeting that the cost of the first building at Knapping Mount could be paid back in five years.
If full council give their support to this recommendation, it would mean the leasehold disposal of Springfield House and the freehold disposal of Victoria Park House, Scottsdale House and the iconic Crescent Gardens.
Crescent Gardens was built in the early 1930s on the site of the old Victorian baths which had been built in 1871 as a major tourist attraction for the town.
Early indications suggest that the site could return to its original tourism roots and become a world class boutique hotel.
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