CONCERNS have been raised over the accuracy of a retail impact assessment which would result from a proposed relocation of Scarborough Town Hall operations to the former headquarters of the Skipton Building Society.
Possible risks associated with the move were outlined yesterday to members of Scarborough Council’s Audit Committee.
And it was also revealed by Nicholas Edwards, the council’s head of finance and asset management, that he had considered Londesborough Lodge as a potential site for the Customer First operation – as one of a number of possible sites – but had ruled it out as unsuitable.
The council is currently undergoing a consultation period into the move until the end of the month with the final decision taken in July.
Mr Edwards identified that removal of staff from the town centre could have an impact on the local economy – a recent retail impact survey showed a reduction of 0.6 per cent. He said: “There are potential issues that this could bring. We’ve done a retail impact assessment and we’ve fed that into members’ views.”
Cllr Colin Challen questioned the report’s findings. He said: “I think that assessment was inadequate – I don’t think the report differentiated between different parts of the town centre. This needs to be done again to have credibility.”
Mr Edwards agreed that the survey could be repeated before councillors had to make a final decision in July. He added: “I could have a look at what other things we could do.”
Cllr Brian Watson said he was concerned that if an easy access route was created to the seafront than businesses in Eastborough would suffer from a lack of trade.
Cllr Nick Brown said he had spoken to a number of small businesses who said they would suffer following the proposed move – because there would be a long period before the whole site was fully redeveloped.
Mr Edwards said that the council had lost 100 jobs over the past two years which had also had an effect. He added: “We are a shrinking council.”
Another risk highlighted by Mr Edwards was that a suitable alternative site for Customer First could not be found – with a budget of £500,000. He said: “We have to make sure it’s fit for purpose.”
Cllr Colin Challen asked if Londesborough Lodge could be used for the Customer First? Mr Edwards said that they had looked at the property but said: “I don’t think it suits that building.”
Cllr Challen said that the current consultation had to be transparent. “There’s a great danger that the consultation produces a negative result and nevertheless we go ahead with it.”