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More council-owned properties set to go in Worcestershire
NEARLY 70 council buildings across Worcestershire have been sold during the last two years, the biggest public sector sell-off ever.
Worcestershire County Council has undertaken an unprecedented cull of unwanted offices by selling 66 sites since 2011, 30 per cent of its entire floor space.
The Worcester News can reveal that the deals, which brought in £9 million for council coffers, are carrying on into 2014 with the hope of earning even more money.
The council wants to sell more land at higher values by getting planning permission to turn some into homes, making plots more attractive to private developers.
It still owns 219 sites around the county.
Buildings handed over in recent months include Pitmaston House, an office block in Malvern Road, Worcester, which is being turned into luxury flats, and Elgar House, Kidderminster.
The authority says “no other council” in the country is so advanced in selling unwanted sites, so much so that the Government is highlighting Worcestershire as a a national example for the rest of the country to follow.
All 854 council staff who used to work at Bridgewater House, a massive office block opposite Elgar Retail Park in Warndon, have also relocated to County Hall.
The mass sell-off included 42 freehold deals - where the buyer gets a property and the land it sits on - and 24 leaseholds, where it obtained the building only.
In recent years acres of space have become empty as staffing numbers at the council have shrunk, and at least another 600 job cuts are on the way by 2017 as part of a plan to save £98m.
The plan is to carry on selling buildings until the council has just four main admin sites - County Hall and Wildwood, both in Worcester, Parkside in Bromsgrove and County Buildings, Stourport.
Peter Parkes, head of property services, said: “You will not find statistics like these anywhere else in the country. We have to continue our approach and have no problem in holding onto a property for an extra 12 months if we can get planning permission for new homes, or even keeping it three or four years if we feel its value will rise.”
He also said the council is looking to put stipulations into some deals, so if an area of sold land is developed into homes in the future the authority will get a slice of the profits.