A FORMER Somerset council’s rural headquarters could be sold off as the new unitary authority seeks to save money.

West Somerset House, which lies on Killick Way in Williton, served as the headquarters of West Somerset Council until its abolition in April 2019, and the joint headquarters of Somerset West and Taunton Council until its own abolition in April 2023.

The new unitary Somerset Council currently shares the building with Avon and Somerset Constabulary, which relocated from its base on the A39 Priest Street back in March 2021.

The council has now revealed that the building may be sold off as its seeks to “rationalise” its property portfolio, selling off buildings it no longer needs to generate funding for front-line services.

Sara Kelly, the council’s property rationalisation programme manager, raised the issue at a meeting of the council’s corporate and resources scrutiny committee in Bridgwater on Thursday morning (September 7).

She said: “We have four properties in Williton, three of which are actually on one street – their front doors literally look at one another.

“We have undertaken a lot of data gathering for each of these four properties, and we think we’re at the point where we have two options that we are currently considering.”

Under the first option, the children’s centre, the libary and Beckett House (which houses the Williton Skills and Enterprise Centre) would be sold off and their services relocated into West Somerset House, which would be retained.

Ms Kelly said: “West Somerset House is significantly under-utilised, and we are confident that it is large enough to fit all the other services into that building.

“We are undergoing feasibility studies to see whether we could adequately provide soundproofing, because there would be a range of services [in there] and it is currently a very open plan building.”

Under the second option, the children’s centre, the library and Beckett House would all be retained, but West Somerset House would be sold off and its staff and services “moved to alternative locations”.

West Somerset House has been under-utilised for a number of years, with the number of public meetings being held there declining after the abolition of West Somerset Council.

The main chamber was deemed to be too small to host full council meetings, or any meetings which attract a large public attendance – meaning residents have to go to Taunton to have their voices heard.

Somerset West and Taunton Council stated in September 2019 that it had no desire to sell the building as a result of these shortcomings, adding  it would “review the situation” regarding when and where meetings were held.

Since Somerset Council officially took over, no in-person meetings have been held at West Somerset House – with all meetings of its planning committee west (which deals with major housing development in the former West Somerset area) taking place in Taunton and being livestreamed via Microsoft Teams.

Ms Kelly said the council’s preferred option for West Somerset House would be finalised “within the next couple of months”.

The council revealed at the same meeting that it was considering selling off the Seahorse Centre in Minehead to provide a new base for the neighbourhood policing team.