POWYS County Council will resist calls to sell The Park office in Newtown to developers – as senior staff say they are in negotiations with “parties” wanting to rent the building.
The closure of The Park, and moving staff over to work from Ladywell House is part of a raft of cost cutting and savings measures worth over £770,000 that have been put forward by the council’s Planning, Public Protection and Property department.
These were discussed by members of the councils Economy, Residents and Communities scrutiny committee on Monday, January 30.
Earlier this month the cabinet set their draft budget which includes increasing Council Tax by five per cent.
The council needs to make cuts and savings as part of the overall drive to find £16.4million to bridge its funding gap for 2023/2024.
The report explains that over two years leaving the The Park office could save £95,000.
But £30,000 of this sum is down to the council finding a new tenant to rent the building.
Cllr Karl Lewis (Conservative) said: “Have you looked at the possibility of selling off the offices to develop into housing.”
Head of planning, property and public protection, Gwilym Davies said: “Obviously you can never say never.
“It’s an option for the future, but we believe that we can get better return by renting out the property than selling it.”
Mr Davies also explained that the office is in a strategically important part of Newtown.
The Park is earmarked as an area where a 32-bed mini hospital could be built as part of the North Powys Wellbeing Hub scheme that the council is working alongside Powys Teaching Health Board to bring to fruition.
Mr Davies said: “By retaining the property, it gives the council a lot more options going forward.
“If we lost that building to a private developer, then that might reduce those opportunities.”
Cllr Gary Mitchell (Plaid Cymru) asked whether the team had evaluated the office rental market.
He pointed out that the originaly idea behind the council’s purchase of nearby Ladywell House was to make money by renting out the space on a commercial basis but that “hadn’t quite worked out”.
Cllr Mitchell said: “Is there really a tenant waiting to pay in relation to The Park office.”
Mr Davies said: “We are in negotiations with a number of parties about that building, and we are hopeful that we can actually secure a partner organisation.”
“But it always remains a risk until you’ve got someone who’s signed a contract with you.”