A “significantly under-utilised” council building in rural Somerset will become more of a one-stop shop for local services under new council plans.

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 announced in September 2023 that it was contemplating selling the building off as part of a wider programme to “rationalise” its property portfolio, with the proceeds being used to fund front-line services.

But officers have now confirmed the building will remain open, with the library and other services relocating to vacant parts of the facility to ensure residents can still access local amenities.

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 developments in the former West Somerset area) taking place in Taunton and being live-streamed via Microsoft Teams.

Sara Kelly, the council’s property rationalisation programme manager, confirmed the building’s future was secured when the council’s corporate and resources scrutiny committee met in Taunton on Thursday morning (March 7).

She stated in her presentation to councillors: “Detailed design and costing has been undertaken, which has shown West Somerset House to be a viable location for co-located services in a single site in Williton.

“West Somerset House is significantly under-utilised, which allows opportunity to reconfigure the layout of the building to accommodate the library, registration service and children’s centre on the ground floor with no loss of delivery space from existing space provision.

“There is an opportunity to provide leased space to tenants currently operating from Beckett House – which operates as an enterprise centre, but currently runs at a loss.

“This would enable the council’s asset management group to declare three sites in Williton surplus, which will deliver capital receipts and revenue savings.

“There is the potential to dispose of the library, children’s centre and land between as a single plot for disposal and/or development. A feasibility study will be commissioned to inform best marketing approach.”

Ms Kelly said that initial market research had revealed there was “limited market interest” in redeveloping West Somerset House for either residential or commercial use.

Councillor Sue Osborne (who represents Ilminster and the neighbouring villages) welcomed the decision, stating: “I totally support the changes in west Somerset – it’s a total no-brainer to put four into one.”