Crunch talks to save £3m Town Hall deal

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Council officials are still locked in urgent discussions to renegotiate a £3million deal to regenerate land around the Town Hall.

The offer from the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA) was thrown into doubt following last month’s decision by councillors to remain at the current St Nicholas Street base.

Hilary Jones, the council’s strategic director, said: “As per the recommendations made at last month’s full council, officers are currently in the process of trying to renegotiate the Joint Venture agreement with the HCA to see if it will still be possible to invest the £3million in a scheme surrounding the Town Hall and Futurist sites.

“A councillor and officer working group will also be set up in due course to set out an accommodation strategy for the Town Hall, taking into consideration new ways of working and future needs of the organisation, while bringing the current building up to modern standards.”

The landmark vote followed months of public consultation over a proposed relocation to the former Scarborough Building Society headquarters at Prospect House in Eastfield.

The working group will focus on carrying out a major modernisation scheme, and members agreed to pursue a £5.8million maintenance programme, as well as a £775,000 IT upgrade.

Adrian Perry, the chairman of Scarborough and District Civic Society, yesterday welcomed last month’s decision and said: “The Town Hall is a major employer in the town and it needs to be in the town centre.”

He added that people had already had an opportunity to put forward their views on the issue but it would be good if there was an opportunity for further consultation once the working group’s findings were published.

“I am sure that everybody will have some comment to make. We would support the decision – provided it is similar to what Cllr Fox outlined,” he said.

Speaking at last month’s meeting Cllr Tom Fox, the leader of the council, admitted he had been “swayed” by the strong public reaction to the proposals.

Speaking at the time he said: “First of all when I looked at this, I looked at it very coldly - bricks and mortar - and I didn’t put my heart and soul into it.

“The public and a couple of councillors have given me a conscience. Through the works and the consultation, I have no reservation in saying I have been suitably swayed in how people see this as a civic heart of this council and how that could be lost if it moves out of the town to Prospect House.”

It is understood that the working environment of the 1960s extention are not acceptable and the building needs to be brought up to modern standards.

Cllr Fox suggested that this could mean demolishing the 1960s annexe and starting afresh with a smaller building.

In March the authority was given just under a week to decide whether to accept a £3m offer from the HCA, which would have been used to buy the new site in exchange for an equity share in the redevelopment of the Futurist and Town Hall sites.

However, following huge public outcry, the council agreed to accept the money in principle and the proposal went out to consultation.

It is estimated the maintenance costs of the authority’s buildings will be £5.8m over the next 25 years – with up to £2.6m needed over the next two years.