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Flagship Worcester City Council HQ on the verge of being sold
THE flagship headquarters of Worcester City Council are on the verge of being sold, we can exclusively reveal.
Your Worcester News can reveal how an investor has come forward with an offer to buy the entire Orchard House complex - which the cash-strapped council is expected to accept.
Although neither party will confirm the source, we understand it has come from the University of Worcester.
Under the deal all council staff will vacate the HQ in early 2015 and talks are ongoing about relocating them elsewhere, with the favourite current contender the Worcester City Art Gallery & Museum in Foregate Street.
Large sections of that site were left empty after the library left for The Hive in 2012, and it is considered big enough to house all the workers in areas like IT, finance, HR, planning, legal services, parking enforcement and a range of other administration roles.
Although the city council employs more than 300 people, less than two thirds of them are permanently based at Orchard House, with the rest in public-facing jobs like rubbish collections and parks maintenance.
Orchard House was never officially up for sale but in recent months council chiefs have let it known discreetly that the right offer for property could tempt them into a deal, which led to the university's interest.
Nearby Graveney House has been on the market and the offer is a package for both sites plus Wyatt House.
If it can be concluded, which is expected by the end of July, a sale could bring a seven-figure sum into the coffers at a time when it needs to slash £4.1 million from spending by 2019.
Under the terms of the deal the university would take ownership of the building, which is in Farrier Street, while the attached car park would also be handed over on a lease arrangement.
One source close to the talks said: "They've been trying to sell it for a while and the buyer started talks in the spring.
"The university's offer and a sale makes some sense as long as there's a good alternative location for the staff, but there is a question of how much upheaval it will involve."
The council has confirmed that an offer has been lodged and we understand talks around nearing a conclusion took place on Tuesday lunchtime.
A spokesman said: "Worcester City Council has received an offer for the purchase of the Orchard House complex and a long lease of The Moors car park.
"If the sale goes ahead, council staff will move to new offices early in 2015."
The university refused to confirm the bid but has provided a statement saying: "The university continues to grow and develop successfully.
"This means that we are exploring opportunities for future physical development, including in Worcester city centre.
" As soon as we are able to make public any new developments then we will do so."