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£59.6m Civic Centre move set for approval

Published: 23 May 2012 14:154 comments

READING Borough Council is set to approve a £59.6m move from the crumbling Civic Centre.

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READING Borough Council is set to approve a £59.6m move from the crumbling Civic Centre.

A shortlist of more than 30 buildings has been whittled down by a cross party committee to RG2 (the former Yell building) in Queens Walk and Plaza West, in Bridge Street. The ruling Labour group will recommend the latter to a special meeting of the council on Tuesday.

The borough plans to buy the freehold from Barclays Nominees for £25.4m, funded through borrowing. The annual bill will be £3.17m, which includes £1.75m of repayments and £780,000 running and maintenance costs, with the total cost over 25 years standing at £59.6m.

Council leader Jo Lovelock said the Civic Centre has reached the end of its life, and added: "The Labour group has had a long, hard look at all the information and decided Plaza West is not only the cheaper option, but also more easily adaptable for the council's needs. In particular it has good public access."

The council would have to pay £29.3m to buy RG2, with annual costs of £3.6m and a total repayment of £64.3m over 25 years. To refurbish the asbestos-riddled Civic Centre, which costs £1.7m annually, the council would have to shell out £51.4m, costing a total of £93m over 25 years.

Cllr Lovelock said the council is determined not to let the Civic Centre site become a "no go" area once the council moves out, with plans to create public space and a performance area while a development partner is found. But a council report said plans to refurbish, rebuild or expand the Hexagon are unviable for the foreseeable future with a price tag of around £60m to replace it.

The council wants to move the Post Office from the ground floor of the Civic Centre into Broad Street Mall and hopes to open a nursery for the children of council staff at Plaza West. The council chamber could be moved to the Town Hall, which would require work to improve the acoustics.

Plaza West will accommodate all of the 985 staff who work at the Civic Centre and Foundation House and the cost of the move itself will be £3.75m, which includes furtniture removal and the overlap of running both buildings. If approved next week, the council aims to complete the move within 13 months.

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