Council Takes First Steps to Deliver a Sustainable Accommodation Vision
Ards and North Down Borough Council is undertaking a strategic review of its administrative buildings, to drive greater efficiency and to make better use of the Council’s estate.
Currently, around 400 Council employees work across more than 10 different buildings, the majority of which are inefficient to use, operate and maintain. It is estimated that the Council’s future need for office space is 50% less than the current footprint of the estate – generating significant opportunities for change, drive efficiencies and provide opportunities for economic, social and environmental benefits. The conclusion of the Business Case undertaken by the Council was that a single building, located in the centre of Bangor or Newtownards, would best serve the Borough in the future.
In progressing any rationalisation of buildings, the Council has also committed to prioritising regeneration benefits locally by considering how any buildings it no longer needs can be released for new purposes. As an example, the SEHSCT has expressed interest in the Council’s Church Street site in Newtownards to facilitate the expansion of its services at the Ards Hospital. This would transfer up to 150 administrative health staff from outside the Borough into Newtownards town centre, delivering a significant boost to the local economy.
The Council is further committed to ensuring that any new building should be situated in the heart of either Bangor or Newtownards. A suitable, modern office building would promote better collaboration between council services, bring footfall to support existing businesses, offer the potential for shared service delivery with other key public sector agencies and provide a catalyst for new businesses to open up.
Commenting on the plans, Chief Executive of Ards and North Down Borough Council, Stephen Reid said: “The Council manages a significant estate, and we fully recognise that several of the buildings we currently use for administrative functions could be used better by other organisations, in other ways, to deliver more positive local impacts. We also recognise that our future need for office space is smaller – significantly so, at an estimated 50% - because of new agile ways of working and because a fit for purpose building would offer us a more efficient footprint to work with, as well as significant environmental benefits.”
He continued: “As such we are taking an exploratory first step to engage with property owners in Newtownards and Bangor to try to identify potential sites for a new civic/office hub for the Council. Sites must be in the town/ city centre footprint in order that they can contribute to our regeneration goals. We will be promoting this opportunity in November and are hopeful of having a range of options to bring to Elected Members for consideration in the new year.”
He added: “Revitalising our estate is a complex and long-term ambition, with many interrelated projects. We know our plans will have to adapt as we move forward to meet the changing needs of the Council/ potential partners, external market conditions and ratepayers/end users. However, it’s critical that we start the process now; that we start working to create a Council estate that is more efficient and sustainable and ultimately less of a burden on ratepayers to maintain.”
It is important to recognise that these are long-term plans and timelines for delivery are yet to be determined.
In the coming weeks, Council intends to issue an Expression of Interest for potential sites.