Council devises programme for future of its key assets
An innovative programme which seeks to re-develop Rochford District Council’s key assets will be discussed by Councillors this month.
The proposals, to be considered by the Council’s Investment Board on January 16, anticipate a reduction of future costs in excess of £300,000 a year through the regeneration of six of its strategic sites.
The authority has worked with technical experts to draw up an ‘Outline Business Case’ which seeks to regenerate the Rochford District by improving the local area and facilities for residents and businesses, reduce future costs and generate revenue income streams.
This work revealed the scenario which would meet these objectives most closely would be to refurbish and extend the Freight House, in Rochford, to give this location a new lease of life in providing modern, more efficient offices for Council staff and partners, as well as a Chamber for Council meetings and a community space.
This would enable the Civic Suite, in Rayleigh, where Council meetings are currently held, to be re-developed for residential purposes or alternative use. It is further proposed that the Mill Arts & Events Centre, Rayleigh, would be re-developed with a suitable proportion of the ground floor retained for Council and community uses. The programme would also see the Council's main offices in South Street, Rochford re-developed for residential purposes or alternative use and numbers 19 and 57, South Street, re-developed for residential purposes to help meet the local housing need.
A robust analysis revealed the proposed programme would be more cost-efficient than continuing to operate the existing buildings in their current form due to their age and the need for significant investment to continue to maintain them in future.
When considering disposal of assets the Council would explore, on a site by site basis as part of the market engagement process, the potential for sites to be disposed of on a non-encumbered long lease or freehold arrangement.
The proposals are at an early stage, with a report to Investment Board proposing that a recommendation is made to Full Council for the approval of the Outline Business Case, with the authority proceeding to the procurement of a development partner. Following the procurement stage, a full business case would be completed with more detailed proposals for the key sites.
It is anticipated that the project would be completed by 2023, an indicative timeline which would be kept under review. Members of the public and stakeholders would be engaged with throughout the process. All facilities within the programme remain open at this time and both the Freight House and The Mill Arts And Events Centre continue to take bookings.
Rochford District Council’s Portfolio Holder for Enterprise, Cllr George Ioannou, said: "It makes sense for Rochford District Council to review its assets, not only from a financial perspective, but also to ensure we are seeking opportunities to regenerate and revitalise the local area to the benefit of our residents and businesses.
"Therefore, we engaged the services of technical experts to undertake a robust analysis of our six strategic sites, working closely with Councillors and Council officers to meet our objectives.
"The resulting Outline Business Case offers an opportunity to reinvigorate the Rochford District by re-developing these key sites, while also saving in excess of £300,000 a year by reducing our future costs. This case will now be taken to the Investment Board for consideration on January 16."