Monday 15 July 2024
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Nottingham

New £15.7m council offices due for approval but opposition concerns remain

Nottinghamshire County Council is expected to approve its multi-million-pound new office development at Top Wighay Farm next week.

The £15.7m building, on the Hucknall-Linby border, has been in the pipeline for several years and will join hundreds of new homes and business space on the former greenfield site.

Initial estimates for the new building, which could host a raft of relocated services from several council-owned buildings, had been £14.7m when first confirmed in 2020 but rose by £1m due to increasing construction costs.

If approved on Tuesday (July 26), the building will be the Conservative-led council’s first completely carbon-neutral office and would also boast leasable spaces and flexible accommodation for local businesses.

It comes as part of a wider ‘Investing in Nottinghamshire’ review of the council’s buildings portfolio, which has seen the number of sites owned or leased by the authority reduced from 17 to nine over the past year.

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This, the council confirmed last week, has brought about more than £1m in annual savings through maintenance costs and upkeep.

Now the authority is recommending approval for the new office, which it says will help make further savings while improving several elements of how its services are provided.

Councillor Keith Girling (Con), portfolio holder for economic development and asset management, said: “The new building will house services such as adult and children’s social care, which are currently based in leased office space.

“We will move out of buildings we pay rent for, and bring services closer to the residents who need them the most, which will cut down on their travel time and help the environment.

“We have focused on improving our buildings which offer services to some of our most vulnerable residents.

“Top Wighay aims to be as carbon-neutral as possible and will be built to the highest of standards when it comes to sustainable buildings.”

He adds the work will provide building contracts for local subcontractors whilst also providing “fit-for-purpose [offices] in the right place” for council staff.

However, opposition councillors have repeatedly raised concerns about the plans and the impact the Top Wighay development could have on neighbouring areas like Hucknall and Linby.

Concerns include traffic issues from the office and the wider development, which sits on the major A611 bypass, as well as the impact on infrastructure in Hucknall.

Earlier this month, Ashfield District Council passed a motion to officially oppose the new office, which sits within the neighbouring Gedling borough, and has been included in the Labour-led council’s local development plan.

Speaking in the full council meeting on July 7, Cllr Dave Shaw (Ash Ind), who represents Hucknall North, said: “It will absolutely devastate the infrastructure of Hucknall.

“We will have the impact of traffic, while the money that could have been saved [by not creating the building] could have been spent on footways, highways and the existing infrastructure in and around Hucknall.

“When a hybrid working policy has been put in place and there are hundreds of empty spaces in existing buildings, I cannot get my head around the logic.

“The development at Top Wighay Farm will add to the outdated infrastructure, the impact on the roads and congestion and the health and wellbeing of the people impacted by this proposal.”

However, the council says issues with traffic have already been mitigated by an expanded roundabout at the A611/Annesley Road junction, a new signal-controlled junction, as well as a new footway and cycle lane along the road.

This work, the council says, has “helped to limit the impact of traffic on nearby towns and villages”.

And improvements to existing bus stops will be made alongside support for bus provider trentbarton’s Threes route, the authority adds.

The new office also couples council plans to review the future of its County Hall headquarters in West Bridgford, with the Top Wighay building being touted as a potential home for relocated services if its current base is closed.

Council leader Ben Bradley (Con) confirmed last week the authority is exploring whether to sell its West Bridgford home,  which is expected to cost tens of millions of pounds to bring up to scratch and become carbon-neutral.

He said: “There’s obviously a question of where we go, Top Wighay would be one of the options and we’ve also got Trent Bridge House just over the road here.

“We’re certainly looking at it, is the honest answer.”

Members of the county council’s planning and rights of way committee will be recommended to approve the new office at Tuesday’s meeting (July 26).

•  County Council could leave County Hall

•  Plans for new, green council building set to get final go-ahead ​

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