Council leaders pleased with ‘high-quality’ offers for County Hall site

One of the County Hall for sale signs with the addition of the September 7 deadline for best and final bids.
One of the County Hall for sale signs with the addition of the September 7 deadline for best and final bids.

Northumberland County Council’s Labour administration has stated that a ‘bigger than expected windfall for residents’ is likely to result from redeveloping County Hall in Morpeth.

Several ‘high-quality’ offers were received for the site in Loansdean by the deadline of noon on Wednesday.

The authority is currently progressing its project to relocate the authority’s headquarters to smaller new premises in Ashington.

Labour says this will save the council money in the long term, as it would be more expensive to refurbish or downsize the current premises, and it enables more staff to be deployed across the county’s main towns.

Opposition groups believe it will be more expensive to move as the overall cost is likely to be ‘much higher than the original £32million figure’.

A spokesman for the county council said it was ‘delighted’ with the response from developers and some of their offers were ‘substantially above’ forecasts in a business case endorsed by auditors Ernst & Young.

He added: “This ‘bonus’ income means that there will be even more money than anticipated to reinvest in restoring front-line services directly to residents through our market towns initiative.

“The profits generated by disposing of the expensive to maintain crumbling HQ and moving into a compact, efficient, purpose-built block will fund vastly-improved key facilities for residents all over Northumberland in their nearest market town – just where they want them.”

Last month, the Conservative group said it would scrap the move to Ashington if it is in power after the election next May.

Council leader Grant Davey said: “I am delighted with the amounts of money being offered to the county by potential buyers and delighted by the high quality of the developments being proposed for Morpeth.

“We will now evaluate all the tenders in minute detail to ensure we go with the one that offers the best new facilities for the people of Morpeth and the best financial package for the whole county.

“For reasons of commercial confidentially, we cannot give any further details of the individual offers at the moment, but I am happy to say that the tenders totally discredit the unfounded claims of opponents of the county-wide town improvements schemes that the Morpeth site is worth ‘only £6 million’.”