PLANS to refurbish Deane House in a £7.5million project have officially been given the green light.
Councillors voted at a meeting on Monday night to agree the plans to build a new hub at the council offices on Belvedere Road, for £7.517m, which will incorporate Avon and Somerset Police and offer a space for other services.
Taunton Deane Borough Council's (TDBC) current headquarters had supposedly fallen into disarray with no option left but to move or revamp the entire building.
According to the council, while the building, which was built in 1987, is structurally sound, many components such as the electrical and mechanical systems are coming to the end of the their natural life.
Cllr Mark Edwards, executive councillor for business development and asset management, said: “This decision is good news for the council and for our community.
"The project makes sound commercial sense. It will provide the flexible workspace required to support a transformed council, and ensure that Taunton retains its strong police presence while improving our ability to attract further commercial tenants.”
Council bosses favoured the option of staying put in a new building in order to maximise money-making opportunities, for instance renting part of the new building for Taunton Police Station and an enquiry office, to create a "public sector hub" in the centre of Taunton.
Cllr John Williams, leader of TDBC, said: "This is an exciting project that caters for our needs, provides for the police and defeats the myth that Taunton has lost its police station.
"The formation of a public sector hub has to be a great idea.
“As a council we no longer need the space we required when The Deane House was built 30 years ago. In fact, we only require about one third of the space we did.
"This is in line with many local authorities across the country who have rationalised their accommodation to embrace modern ways of working.
"The Deane House project is a very visible symbol to staff and others that the way we work will radically change.”
Alternative options considered were moving into Somerset County Council's County Hall or building a new office at a council-owned site such as Firepool.
Proposals to share County Hall were dismissed as the proposal was no longer suitable for the council's requirements and expectations.
Building a new office sized around 2,000m2 was not the preferred option as it would cost £5.5-£6m and would not give TDBC the option to rent out additional space.
A new-build the size of the current Deane House, 5,183m2 was projected to cost around £13m.
Some concerns raised among the councillors include the 45-year payback time, as well as the impact on residents in the area.
Independent Cllr Ian Morrell said: "This is obscene. My unborn children will be at the point of retirement before this is paid back."
Independent Cllr Steve Ross added: "We have to pay particular attention to the residents. The comings and goings of a police station will be different to that of a council."
Concerns about the amount of money spent on new furniture were also voiced, to which council officers said the current furniture will be reused where possible.