A HISTORIC council-owned building could be saved by constructing a number of homes in a public space near Taunton town centre, a report suggests.

A working group of councillors has concluded that Flook House should be saved from the bulldozers "for its historical interest and potential social value".

Somerset West and Taunton Council at the end of last year discussed demolishing the property off Station Road, along with the former public toilets, at a cost of £110,000.

It was said that the area had become a "magnet for anti-social behaviour" and Flook House, home to an MP 200 years ago and until more recently a register office, expensive repairs.

The working group has decided the toilet block should be demolished and lease extensions offered to new or exiting tenants of Flook House.

The group is asking next Wednesday's executive meeting for £125,000 for a business planning process to provide project management, engage architects and other "necessary specialists".

A report to the meeting says: "Rising costs of property compliance mean that the council need to invest significant sums to maintain the ageing Flook House building with little in return by way of rent.

"The longer term solution seeks to produce a financial return to support the costs of operating Flook House."

It adds: "The challenge faced by the group was to consider the future of the building and the immediate surrounding area against the backdrop of rising capital costs, the maintenance needs of the building and reducing tenancies and therefore income.

"The original report was brought at a time when a decision was needed to invest £22,000 on compliance works. These compliance works have now been commissioned."

The working group supports continuing to let the property rather than demolishing, selling off or converting it into housing

But it proposes "a wider regeneration of the area to bring financial support" to the building.

The report says: "The preference to continue to the let Flook House was supported on the basis that the group wanted to keep the building and the other options to do so would be difficult and

costly to implement.

"There was considerable discussion regarding the use types sought, and the tenants and tenancies that would be preferred as there are a range of options including the current use types through to a community hub, town council offices, art gallery/studio space, etc.

"The estimated initial feasibility project costs are significant when compared to the estimated £220,000 capital investment required to bring the Flook House property up to a higher standard.

"It is understood though that the project is to consider the potential for residential development of the area in order to raise funds that may be reinvested to improve the Flook House asset.

"The two aspects need not be linked as development of the area may prove to be a positive option regardless of the how council chose to spend any income.

"The wider development may be financially beneficial and council may choose to divert those funds to activity of a greater priority."

Flook House currently brings in £12,070 a year in rent.