COUNCIL leaders have given the green light to sell off an office complex and lease a car park in Worcester city centre in a plan worth £3.1 million .
At a meeting on Tuesday, July 29 the council’s Conservative-run cabinet gave the go-ahead to sell off its Orchard House complex in Farrier Street as well as the lease of the nearby Moors car park.
As previously reported by your Worcester News, Orchard House, Wyatt House and Graveney House will be sold to the University of Worcester for £2.9 million. The car park will also be handed over to the university on a 20-year lease for an upfront £260,000 lump sum as well as a peppercorn fee of £1 a year.
Due to the speed of the deal, which was only announced at the start of July, the council will lease back the complex until March next year at a rate of £101,500 per annum while staff relocate to the ground floor of the Worcester Art Gallery and Museum in Foregate Street, which will undergo a £300,000 refurbishment in preparation.
Cllr Chris Mitchell said the deadline for staff to move out of March next year may be a challenge, but he was confident it would not pose a problem.
“It is tight and we need to keep and eye on it,” he said.
“If we get the planning application in on the first week in August we should meet the deadlines.”
He added council offices had looked at the possibility of moving the offices into the Guildhall, but had decided it was not appropriate as the vacant rooms in the building were too small.
“This makes good use of an existing asset,” he said.
But council leader Cllr Simon Geraghty said some rooms at the Guildhall could be used as meeting rooms or as bases for staff who work remotely.
Cllr Andy Roberts agreed more use could be made of the building.
“This is an extremely important and under-utilised building,” he said. “This will bring life into the building.”
Under the plan the 100-space Moors car park will be used by the university during the week and will be open to the public at weekends. It will also be open publicly during the annual Victorian Christmas Fair.
But the transfer of the council's offices to the Foregate Street building mean plans for a children's museum on the ground floor have been shelved.
Although the council has not yet decided how the £3.1 million windfall will be used, a poll on the Worcester News website revealed 38 per cent thought it should be used to stop spending cuts while 32 per cent said it should go towards paying off a chunk of the city’s £8.5 million debts.
A fifth of those responding to the poll said the cash should be put towards the city’s proposed new swimming pool while ten per cent picked ‘none of the above’.