Suffolk Coastal District Council has announced that it has a preferred bidder to buy its Melton Hill Headquarters site.
The sale of the 3.23-acre plot of land in Woodbridge follows the Council’s decision to move to a new purpose-built headquarters in Melton.
The Council is due to move to the former Girdlestones site, a brown-field site opposite Melton Railway Station, later this year (2016).
One of the key aims of the move is to protect the tax payer, by reducing the council running costs in the future, as the current headquarters is becoming increasingly expensive to maintain and run.
The current headquarters site is in a prime location, overlooking the River Deben and with views across to Sutton Hoo, close to Woodbridge town centre.
At Suffolk Coastal’s Full Council meeting on Thursday (28 January), Cllr Geoff Holdcroft, who is Deputy Leader of the Council, as well as Cabinet member for Resources and chairman of the Accommodation Programme Board made the official announcement that a preferred bidder had been selected.
Cllr Holdcroft said: “We have made very positive progress on the sale of our existing headquarters and are now in a position to announce that we have a preferred bidder for the site. We have arrived at this stage following a thorough and detailed process to identify best value for local Council Tax payers, as well as Suffolk Coastal District Council.”
The Council began marketing the Melton Hill site in April 2015. Following a shortlisting process, which not only looked at price but also issues such as payment of CIL, design and provision of affordable homes, four of the developers were interviewed before the decision was made to select Active Urban Property Group (AUPG) as our preferred bidder, subject contract.
This selection has now been approved by the Chief Executive, in consultation with the Leader of the Council and the Cabinet Member for Resources, under the terms of the authority delegated by Cabinet in September 2014.
A detailed Head of Terms letter is currently being drafted to be sent to AUPG for its agreement, which the intention of us exchanging contracts by the end of May 2016.
In response to the news of the decision, AUPG’s Managing Director, David Hughes, said: “We are delighted to have been selected by Suffolk Coastal District Council and look forward to working with them, and the local community of Woodbridge, to deliver an exemplar project befitting such a prime site in a truly unique and stunning location.”
The plan is to create about 70 new homes on this site, of which about 33% will be affordable homes. The company intends to start its planning and design process immediately. This will include it engaging in a 12-week community consultation process to inform the layout and design proposals.
Cllr Holdcroft said: “I obviously cannot go into the details of the financial deal at this stage, but I would like to reassure people that the recent improvement in the property market has resulting in us achieving a higher value for the site than we had initially envisaged.”
“Importantly, the capital receipts from the headquarters and Cedar House sites combined will cover the cost of our new headquarters in Melton. So the project will be effectively cost neutral.”
“We will be able to move to the new building without incurring any debt or imposing any additional burden on the Council Tax payer.”
“In fact, it means that the reduction in the running costs of our headquarters, estimated at rising from £200,000 initially to £500,000 in the long term (17 – 20 years), will create financial benefits for the Council and local people for years to come.”
Concertus Design & Property Consultants has been the property advisor for Suffolk Coastal District Council’s Accommodation Programme since April 2013.
As well as advising and working closely with SCDC on the redevelopment and disposal of the Melton Hill site, they have also acted in the sale of Cedar House and the council’s acquisition and relocation to Riduna Park, Melton.
Naming Of The New Headquarters: On an allied subject, Cllr Holdcroft also announced the new headquarters in Melton will officially be called ‘East Suffolk House’.
“We had an excellent response to our appeal for names, with over 50 suggestions from staff and Members. These were considered by the Accommodation Programme Board this week, which unanimously supported adopting the name ‘East Suffolk House’, as it is felt this makes a strong statement about our continuing partnership work across East Suffolk, with our colleagues in Waveney,” he told the meeting.