Since Wealden District Council was set up in 1974, as one of the largest in the South East, it has operated out of two headquarters buildings in Crowborough and Hailsham. As transport and heating costs have risen over the years, this has put an additional burden on Council running costs.
Through the introduction of flexible working practices and shared services with neighbouring councils, Wealden District Council will be able to operate from one location in Hailsham from 2012. There will be no increase in the day-to-day number of officers using the refurbished Vicarage Lane building.
"I am pleased that the plans to refurbish our building in Hailsham have been approved," said Leader of the Council Cllr Bob Standley. "The move to a single site will save the Council and Council taxpayers over £370,000 each year which is a significant reduction in our overheads. The move from Crowborough will also enable the site there to lead the regeneration of the town. Part of that regeneration is the new Community Centre, on which work has recently begun, on land provided by the District Council," continued Cllr Standley.
Councillor Robin Kempe, the Mayor of Hailsham, spoke in favour of the application at the 3 February Planning Committee meeting, saying it would be "a tremendous benefit to the residents of Hailsham".
As well as securing some much needed improvements to the community hall, which will also act as a council chamber when needed by Wealden District Council, the refurbished offices will create a focal point in the centre of the town, he said.
The refurbished building will benefit from a more energy efficient heating system using passive ventilation and making better use of the building's concrete frame to retain ambient heat.
The Council is also drawing up a travel plan to encourage staff to car share and use alternative means of transport to reduce reliance on private cars.
Planning Committee South also asked for a review of Hailsham's future car parking provision to be carried out, including the ratio between long term and short term parking.
While the refurbishment takes place, temporary office accommodation will be provided for Hailsham staff in Eastbourne and at Pine Grove, but the Council will continue to operate a customer centre at Hailsham. Work on the refurbishment is expected to be completed by autumn 2012.