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Folkestone and Hythe District Council to leave Civic Centre?

Yesterday Folkestone and Hythe dirtect Council (F&HDC) published an article on Facebook suggesting a move from the Civic Centre in Castle Hill Avenue, Folkestone.

"We are to investigate a possible move from the Civic Centre as a way of reducing our impact on the environment."

So, what's the story? Has a decision been made? How much will this all cost?

Simply: last week the idea was floated at a number of members, and asked if it was a thought worth doing any more research on to form into an actual proposal.

The Civic Centre (one of the area's worst examples of 1960's / 70's disaster architecture) is already mainly now rented out to companies and others: F&HDC occupy something like 3 out of the 9 floors after years or rationalisation, reducing desks, open plan working and the rest. Then Covid happened, and most staff have been working from home since March and, it turns out, it works quite well. Does the Council need as much space as it has at the moment? No. Not by a long way.

The building is expensive to heat, and not at all energy efficient.

Although much is rented out, that is to businesses. I don't actually know how much they pay, but since March, many companies are also looking at their office space needs. The floors the Council don't need may become increasingly hard to let out.

So - that was some of the case made. Why not instead move to a (probably purpose built) new "Civic Centre" with much less desk space to reflect the new and likely long term needs, appropriate meeting rooms, and seek to make sure its a carbon neutral / zero building and all the rest?

Shepway Civic CentreThings that were taken as a given:

  • There needs to be a "place" in Folkestone Town Centre that people can visit to talk face-to-face to the Council.
  • No-one wants to see the Council spend money on this. So to get decent support, the cost of a new centre would have to be at least fully met by the sale of the old one. The running costs of the new centre would have to be lower the the running costs of the current one.
  • The new building would have to be Carbon neutral to meet our environmental commitments, And simply passing on the current Civic Centre to a new owner that uses it "as is" doesn't improve that building - you are looking at a use that involves replacing, rather than reusing, the current Civic Centre.
  • We weren't be asked if we should "do" this, we were being asked if someone could spend some time getting together enough of the costs/ facts / ideas for the above to make a proposal in the future. Clearly it would take some time to get that sort of report together, and there was no point if Councillors were going to stick in the current Civic Centre no matter what.

So I (and seemingly others as the story is now of Facebook) agreed it was worth officers spending some time on getting together a report on this and coming back to Council with a real proposal. Lets see suggested location, costs, potential value of the current Civic Centre, environmental impacts (positive and negative), potential town centre location and more, and then we can make a rational decision.

I'm interested to see what comes forward, but have made no decisions yet. I hold no candle for the current Civic Centre, but to move I'll need to be convinced it can be built for less than we get for selling the current building, will cost to run each year, will be better for staff and Councillors, allow good access to the Council by the public and be a more environmentally sustainable solution. I'm open to be convinced.