In one of the biggest moves in its history, Harrogate Council is set to sell off its office sites in the town centre and relocate to one single building.
Its main offices at Crescent Gardens could become a top class boutique hotel, to support the conference and tourism trade, and its Knapping Mount site would be earmarked for 52 homes, including affordable homes.
The sale of the sites would fund the move, and also give a huge boost to the local economy.
The council is now in negotiations with the owners of its final shortlist of four possible sites. They are a site at Hornbeam Park, Central House at Beckwith Knowle, the former Dunlopillo site at Pannal, and the site of Harrogate police station on North Park Road. Harrogate Police are currently building a new headquarters at Cardale Park.
The council has been working on the project for more than a year. It has always had the problem of being scattered over five separate sites in Harrogate, and there are now funding issues with a backlog of maintenance due on all its buildings.
Property specialists have been working with the council and concluded that over a 25-year period, it is cheaper to move than stay.
Coun leader Don Mackenzie said having staff on one site would lead to greater efficiency savings through consolidating fewer staff in one building, and also help promote a “one-council” culture to improve services and staff morale.
He told the Advertiser on Wednesday: “We will be able to create a proper civic centre or town hall for residents to make the council much more accessible.”
He said one of the main advantages of the move would be the economic benefits of the re-use of the council buildings.
He said: “We would see this as a major boost to the economy of Harrogate and local employment as we release land and buildings for development.”
The council estimates there would be a potential investment of £30million in the town, with an ongoing boost to the local economy of £15million a year. The new developments could create anywhere between 190 and 890 new jobs, depending on what the buildings and land are used for.
Coun MacKenzie said: “We are often accused of not doing enough to help the economy, but this is very positive action to give an additional boost to Harrogate.”
The council has 1,200 full time positions, and around half those positions are office staff based in Harrogate.
Officers are now negotiating prices to buy one of the four sites, and relocation could happen within three years.
Coun Mackenzie said: “This move would tick all the boxes, in terms of environmental gains, efficiency savings and investment in the town centre, giving a huge and welcome boost to the local economy in these very tough times.”