Upgrades ‘essential’ despite uncertainty over future of Barnstaple building.
DEVON County Council is spending nearly £400,000 on safety upgrades at the civic centre in Barnstaple – despite uncertainty over the future of the building.
Half the building could be empty by the end of the year but the council said it was carrying out the overhaul to comply with fire safety legislation.
Around 200 fire doors are being replaced as part of a planned maintenance contract awarded in November last year.
The work also includes building fire protection; links to the fire alarm system; protection in non-accessible areas; and re-configuration of the internal structure to meet current fire safety regulations.
The anticipated costs, which are yet to be finalised, are expected to be around £380,000
The county council is currently making £28million worth of cuts – including to day centres, residential homes and the youth service – because of a government funding squeeze.
A spokesman said fire safety audits had flagged up the ‘essential’ programme of work, expected to be completed shortly.
“The safety of staff and visitors in all of our buildings, including the civic centre in Barnstaple, is of paramount importance,” said the spokesperson.
“This work is essential regardless of whether the building is fully occupied or whether it will be vacated at some point in the future.”
Earlier this month, the Gazette reported that North Devon Council, which occupies just under half the building, had signalled its intention to find alternative premises.
Last week, architects revealed speculative plans to transform the building into riverside residential apartments, although the county council said no decisions had been made about the future of the building.
The county council has around 185 staff based at the civic centre. In addition to the district council, the main occupiers are HM Courts Service, the BBC, and the police, who occupy a separate building next door.
The county council spokesman added: “It’s very early days. We understand that North Devon Council would like to vacate the building. We’re discussing that with them with a view to ensuring the interests of both organisations are achieved.
“As part of our estates strategy more broadly, we are continually reviewing all our properties including the civic centre and other properties in Barnstaple.”