Space at the civic offices could be sold to businesses

HMS Illustrious leaves Portsmouth for the last time
Picture: Shaun Roster

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PLANS to make better use of the building that’s home to Portsmouth City Council have been approved.

A report drawn up by Kathy Wadsworth, strategic director of regeneration, says space at the civic offices could be let out to businesses to help reduce costs and generate income.

It said something needs to be done to address high running costs as only 50 per cent of the site is being used by employees.

Mike Hancock, cabinet member for planning, regeneration and economic development, showed his support at a public meeting on Friday.

Mr Hancock said: ‘We want to make better use of the space we have got.

‘It’s part of the transformation of the city council’s building.

‘Inevitably it will mean we will save money.

‘If we are not using all the space and if we are giving people the chance to develop it then that lessens the overheads of the city council, so that has got to be good.’

A study carried out by real estate advisers Vail Williams found the Brunel Wing of the civic offices ‘has the potential to be attractive as city centre office space’ subject to work being done to modernise it.

A reception space could be added.

Four businesses have so far shown an interest, although their identities aren’t being revealed at this stage.

The document says council members have previously said they didn’t want to relocate.

Mr Hancock said: ‘This is the first step. This is by no means the end of the road.’

A discussion is due to be held with the organisations to further understand their proposals.

Deputy labour group leader Aiden Gray, who attended the meeting, said he supported the move – but wants bidders to be checked out properly.

He said the council should have also considered making use of the nearby derelict Zurich building.

Cllr Gray said: ‘It’s a good idea, especially if it will bring in money, but it needs to be done in the right way.

‘Though it’s early days, we need to see the finer detail from businesses coming in with offers.

‘It can’t be to the detriment of the area and the council offices.

‘We have got to look at whether we can use other sites such as the Zurich building.’

Ms Wadsworth will come back to the council with an update in the autumn.