Office Space paper. A summary

Papers for the full meeting of Aberdeenshire Council on the 26th April have gone live and can be found here.

Among the reports is one on the Office Space strategy. As part of this paper, Councillors will take a final decision on the plans for the development of Aberdeenshire Council office space. 

Background
Last January, officers were asked to explore vacating Aberdeenshire Council from both Woodhill House, Aberdeen and Gordon House, Inverurie, and relocating both premises to a brand-new facility at Harlaw, Inverurie. Since then, the working group has met regularly to progress the options and given this due consideration. More scrutiny was applied after the local government elections and new members were given time to consider the proposals as part of a cross-party member working group. 

Following significant discussions, a new option will be put to members at the meeting next week. If selected, it would result in a major transformation and extension of Inverurie Town Hall, turning this historic asset into a flagship focal point for the community. It is felt that this option could significantly enhance the town centre.

Traffic impact will continue to be assessed but considerations include the close location of the train station, with railway lines being upgraded and an anticipated increase in the number of trains running between Inverurie and Aberdeen once the dualling is complete; the town is well served by the bus network, and plans for an integrated transport hub are also under development.

If this option is chosen, the move to Harlaw would be officially taken off the table, Gordon House would be released, and a new agreement would be put in place for Woodhill House. It is proposed that Woodhill House could become a public-sector hub, with an expression of interest from NHS Grampian about shared use of the space. This would remain the location of the Council Main Chambers and civic space, with a reduced footprint for officers.
The report also details significant developments throughout Aberdeenshire. 

Stonehaven 
One of the report recommendations is to refurbish Viewmount, release Carlton House and the office space at Arduthie School, and create a service point in the town, most likely at Allardice Street. The detailed contained within this part of the project is still under review. A decision would provide direction for the project team and those staff in Stonehaven, albeit the detail may be subject to future change.    

Ellon 
The report proposes constructing a new office on the site of the former Ellon Academy and releasing all other sites in the town. This is part of a wider master plan for the site, as considered by the Area Committee, which could include new housing, a health centre and the office space. Partners are currently working together to scope this option.

Elsewhere in Inverurie

Councillors will also be asked to confirm that Aberdeenshire Council will no longer be progressing with the purchase of the Inverurie Locos site, or the relocation of Colony Park, and would release Gordon House. 

Traffic management

Consideration has been given to traffic implications in the centre of Inverurie. The Town Hall option provides optimal access to public transport such as bus and rail. The proposal, if considered, would give the option of turning the site of the former Market Place School in the town into parking (Council employees on weekdays and public car parking at the weekend). Ongoing traffic impact assessments will take place, based on the option progressed by Councillors.

Wide dispersal of staff

The plans are progressing to build on the successes of our Worksmart programme, where office staff can work flexibly, depending on the needs of the service they deliver and the community they serve. Part of the plans include wider dispersal of staff across Aberdeenshire who can utilise office space and hot desks in offices and locations in all towns across the area.

Budget

There is a business case supporting these proposals. Doing nothing would result in the status quo being a significant cost to the Council. This project would, if approved, save us money in the long term by reducing overheads on issues like the upkeep of old buildings, in energy costs, and repairs. 

Due process

At this stage, the report remains open for debate by elected members. No decision will be made until the correct amount of scrutiny and debate has been applied. Detail about the next steps, whatever the outcome of the decision, will be communicated after the meeting. 

Councillors are being approving the strategy in principle at this meeting. Each element will be subject to further scrutiny in the coming months before each can be considered to be approved.

The meeting of Full Council on the 26th April begin at 10:15am and will be streamed live on our webcasting portal, where it will also be archived after the meeting concludes: https://aberdeenshire.public-i.tv/core/portal/home