Move to Whitefriars could be on cards for council offices

Council offices in Military Road

Councillors are to be asked to give the green light to move forward plans to switch the council’s offices from their current site in Military Road into the city’s Whitefriars shopping complex.

Councillors are to be asked to give the green light to move forward plans to switch Canterbury City Council’s offices from their current site in Military Road, Canterbury, into the city’s Whitefriars shopping complex

In a report to the Policy Committee due to take place on Monday 5 July, officers say the need to move out of Military Road is greater than ever because it is too big and very expensive to run, especially now most council staff are successfully working from home and will continue to do so, it is not very environmentally friendly and the site is better off being sold for housing.

A combination of the first and second floors of Topshop and the RBS building are the most likely locations to be converted into offices.

The former might include offices and meeting rooms and the latter would be home to a customer reception, our print and mail operation and a small amount of office space.

In the report to councillors, Deputy Chief Executive Trica Marshall says: “Repurposing unused space will have a beneficial economic impact on the city centre by increasing footfall and using space that is not currently generating any rental income but is incurring holding costs, though there will be some significant costs to converting retail and storage space into offices.

“However, any conversion costs will be substantially less than the capital receipt that could be generated from selling the Military Road site.

“The current Military Road offices are around 10,000m2 gross internal area (GIA). Pre pandemic, the new requirement for the council was assessed as a bit less than 4,000m2

“Our response to the pandemic has shown that most staff can work from home most of the time.

“Some roles will remain office based due to job requirements or people’s personal circumstances but even after allowing for that, the assessment is that only 2,000m2 of space will be required.”

The report says the advantages of the plan include:

  • using a space at Whitefriars that is difficult to rent out or generates low levels of rent
  • Whitefriars is close to the bus station, railway stations and Park and Ride so is easy to get to for customers and staff in a sustainable way
  • having office workers in the city will help boost the businesses there

The challenges include:

  • moving the council’s computer centre while systems are moved into the cloud
  • parking arrangements for council vehicles
  • conversion costs
  • finding a home for our CCTV control room but this could co-locate with the Whitefriars control room

If the committee accepts the need to move to the next stage, work will include:

  • coming up with detailed costings
  • designing the layout of offices
  • ensuring the plans comply with the rules affecting public bodies such as accessibility

In 2019, the council had decided to build new offices in Wincheap but changed its mind in February of this year because of the financial challenges it is facing.

Policy Committee is due to meet at 7pm in the Guildhall, St Peter’s Place, on Monday 5 July.

Published: 25th June 2021