New headquarters: District council chiefs reveal all!

ELDC’s new £8 million-plus headquarters in Horncastle will be a single state-of-the-art structure incorporating a Further Education college and a multi-use public sector hub.

ELDC's current headquarters in Manby.

The eco-friendly building will feature the latest technology as the council rolls out a new way of working for staff.

Initial plans indicate the site, in Mareham Road, will also feature 220 car parking places and a major programme of landscaping.

The council is also working with a specialist company to finalise a traffic management programme which, it says, will be a key element of the planning process.

And, for the first time, the council has revealed the re-development of the site was ‘driven’ by Boston College’s determination to provide a facility in Horncastle.

The district council hopes that these details - revealed in an exclusive Louth Leader interview with top ELDC figures - will ease doubts and criticism about the project.

ELDC is playing down suggestions that it’s current headquarters - at Manby - could be sold for a major new housing development.

The council has confirmed the 14-acre site - a former RAF station - is Grade II protected.

While this strictly limits external alterations to the buildings on the Manby Park site, internal renovations can be made to the buildings there, including the HQ 
building (Tedder Hall) itself.

This could allow for the buildings on the site to be utilised for office space or accommodation, according to the council leaders.

The Leader has seen initial architect drawings of the new building, although the final design could change before a planning application is submitted.

If permission is secured, work could start this summer.

The council has pledged to use as many local companies as possible - and establish strong links with existing business and organisations.

ELDC ‘s chief executive Rob Barlow said: “We are aware some people are asking, why Horncastle? But if you look around the district, there aren’t that many sites 
available that we could go to.

“The other point to make is that it was very much a college provider wanting to be based in Horncastle.

“This isn’t just about the council moving. It’s about a whole new way of working for us.

“It’s also about improving education challenges, giving young people the chance to learn, and giving businesses the skills to compete and develop.”

Regarding the new college, Mr Barlow added: “They (Boston College) approached us - not the other way around.

“What we have got at the moment is Lincoln, Boston and Grimsby all providing main educational offers outside of our district.

“Over the last 12 months, we have been speaking to all those colleges, and in the conversations we’ve had with Boston, they’ve said: ‘We’ve got this demand here (Horncastle) that is not been met’ and we said: ‘We’re looking at a re-location project’ and they said: ‘We’ll be interested in working something up with you.”

Council leader Coun Craig Leyland admitted that while education was ‘not necessarily’ a district responsibility, the authority had to ‘facilitate and enable’.

The college will feature four classrooms, two of which will be digital learning space.

It will be housed on the ground floor of the new building, which will also include a council chamber.

Although there are separate college and council areas, the overall design means space can easily be ‘shared’ - depending on demand.

The first floor will feature a large open space office for ELDC, along with kitchens and a cafeteria.

Coun Leyland explained: “One of the main issues with Manby - apart from the running costs - is there are too many rooms, too many corridors and too many 
closed doors. Open plan working really will make a huge difference.

“Rob (Barlow) won’t have a new office. Neither will I. It’s a different way of working, but by no means unique.

“A lot of other authorities already work this way. We’re just catching up.”

The building will feature plenty of glass - and an ‘air heating system’ - reducing the carbon footprint.

The council chiefs said that more staff will have the opportunity to work from home, and will be able to drop in to what ELDC describes as ‘touchdown’ points - small offices based around the district.

Assistant chief executive James Gilbert added: “Our staff won’t have to spend time travelling from one job back to the main office.

“They can work at one of the ‘touchdowns’ - saving time and money.”

As previously reported, the proposal to move ELDC’s headquarters from Manby to Horncastle has drawn ire from several town and district councillors in Louth.

Criticisms have included the high cost of the project, concerns over the likelihood of raising a significant sum from the sale of the current site, and the fact that the council’s headquarters will be moving further away from the district’s largest market town.

• ELDC claims the switch will be ‘cost neutral’

More details have emerged about ELDC’s claims that the decision to quit Manby and move to Horncastle will be ‘cost neutral’.

ELDC says it hopes the sale of Manby - and Skegness Town Hall where around 25 staff are presently based - will generate around £1.42m, depending on what future development takes place. The cost of the move to Horncastle is around £8.25m, but ELDC says the sale of the two current sites - combined with significant savings in running costs over the next 20 years - will cover the initial outlay.

Regarding the two existing sites, Neil Cucksey, ELDC’s Assistant Director for Property, Business and Growth, explained the council had no definite plans and had given itself a five year ‘window’ to explore sale and re-development options.

Husband and wife ‘did not breach any regulations’

Two ELDC councillors have been exonerated amid the authority’s plans to move from Manby to Horncastle.

Coun David Andrews (ELDC’s current chairman) and his wife Coun Sandra Campbell-Wardman took part in a discussion and subsequent vote backing the move in October 2019. They both supported the motion.

It has emerged Coun Andrews owns a former Ambulance Station - now a car repair business run by a relative - immediately adjacent to the proposed site for the new ELDC headquarters off Mareham Road.

However, Coun Andrews and Coun Campbell-Wardman have stressed they raised the issue of a possible conflict of interest with ELDC’s monitoring officer prior to the meeting. They say they were told they could take part - and vote.

Now, they have been backed by ELDC leader Coun Craig Leyland and chief executive Rob Barlow.

Coun Leyland said: “The reality is they checked very carefully with the monitoring officer and sought his advice.

“This is nothing new. It’s in the minutes of the actual meeting. They stayed in that meeting with the full knowledge of the monitoring officer.”

Coun Leyland stressed the issue of declaring an interest rests with individual councillors.

He said: “There is no actual rule saying you should (declare an interest). It’s for a councillor’s own judgement.

“Having sought the advice of the monitoring officer, they decided to stay.”

Coun Leyland went on to stress the move vote was approved by an ‘overwhelming majority.’

He added: “I would note that irrespective of their vote, there was an overwhelming majority to support the agenda item.

“Again, I stress they did raise the issues in terms of what they should do. They did things absolutely correctly.

“If they hadn’t been in the building, it would not have made any difference.

Mr Barlow said: “They (Coun Andrews and Coun Campbell-Wardman) did declare a personal interest. Did they vote with any more of an interest than anyone who might be thinking of sending their children to a new college in Horncastle? It all becomes a nonsense really.”

Coun Leyland added: “If this was the chairman’s casting vote perhaps it’s a different story.

“It was an overwhelming vote that takes the sting out of this completely. We weren’t reliant on them. “

Coun Campbell-Wardman later told this newspaper: “We did take advice from the monitoring officer. We were told that because it was personal and that David only owned the land not the business, and I don’t own either, we could stay in the meeting and vote.”