Uncertainty remains over councils' £10m deal for ex-Aviva offices

The Horizon Business Centre at the Broadland Business Park. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

The Horizon Business Centre at the Broadland Business Park. - Credit: DENISE BRADLEY/Archant2021

The potential £10m purchase of a former Aviva office for two Norfolk councils remains shrouded in uncertainty after councillors raised concerns over the move.

South Norfolk Council and Broadland district councils had employed consultants Ingleton Wood and Roche to carry out a review of their accommodation.

The recommendation of consultants was for the councils to buy Aviva's former office in the Horizon building at Broadland Business Park.

Buying it would cost an estimated £10.1m, partially offset by the £5.2m sale of the councils' current headquarters in Long Stratton and Thorpe St Andrew.

But, at meetings of respective committees of the two councils on Friday (November 12), concerns were raised over the thoroughness of the information given - and the true costs of the switch.

Members of Broadland District Council’s service improvement and efficiency committee unanimously voted not to agree to the purchase in principle.

That committee voted for the member working group of councillors to be given further information and three more months to make their recommendations to other councillors.

That includes further surveys and analysis of costs, not only of the Horizon building, but also other options, including improving Broadland’s existing building at Thorpe Lodge.

Thorpe Lodge, now Broadland District Council Offices -Thorpe St Andrew<Copy: Rachel Banham - EDP S

Broadland District Council's Thorpe Lodge headquarters. - Credit: Archant

Steve Riley, Liberal Democrat councillor for Aylsham, and a member of the working group, said there were still unanswered questions about costs which needed to be explored.

Steve Riley

Steve Riley, Liberal Democrat councillor for Aylsham. - Credit: George Thompson

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And Peter Bulman, Conservative councillor for Great Witchingham, said: “This whole process, to me, has been rushed. It has been inelegant in many respects and has been short of information.”

Members of South Norfolk Council’s commercial trading and customer focus committee also asked for more information.

But, that committee voted to rule out the potential revamp of Thorpe Lodge, saying it was not big enough for the needs of the councils, which share an officer team.

The committee also recommended Norfolk County Council - which had seemingly ruled out the councils moving there - should be asked again if that might be possible.

And members asked for the possibility of a new build headquarters to be considered in more detail.

Final decisions would need to be made by each authority’s full council.