Published: 15:44, 07 October 2019
| Updated: 16:44, 07 October 2019
Three superstores could be demolished to make way for a state-of-the-art headquarters for Canterbury City Council.
Authority bosses are looking at building a new home on the Wincheap industrial estate - with £2 million of taxpayers money set aside just to plan for the move.
But the total budget for the project - set to be discussed in secret by councillors at a meeting last night - is being kept under wraps.
Plans to abandon the current offices in Military Road - the authority's base since 1981- were disclosed last November.
The council wants to significantly downsize from its "no longer fit for purpose" base.
Twenty potential sites across Canterbury and Herne Bay have been researched and now whittled down to three options.
Of those, flattening three superstores - Beds 4 Us, Carpets 4 Less, and home furniture specialists Bamboo Tiger - in Simmonds Road is the most favoured.
The units, owned by the council, would make way for "zero-carbon" and "sustainable" council headquarters offering 50 parking spaces.
The other two options being considered are a new building on top of the current Military Road car park, or developing on the temporary Canterbury West car park in Station Road West.
But officers are recommending the switch to Wincheap, and hope to be in their new digs by 2023.
Benefits include the close proximity to park and ride, Canterbury East station, the city centre and the envisaged A2 off-slip.
Once the move has gone ahead, the current Military Road HQ would be demolished and replaced with about 170 homes.
The authority admits more than 45% of the offices are not used due to the site's poor design and sheer size.
In the past two years, face-to-face meetings at Military Road have dramatically fallen from 17,700 to little more than 4,000.
Financial forecasts show the council would need to splash £1.6 million in the next 10 years in order to keep the current building watertight.
Chief executive Colin Carmichael says the move will help the council adhere to its recently-declared climate emergency.
He said: “The Military Road offices have lasted well up to now with relatively little investment, but in the near future we’ll need to spend a large amount of cash if we’re going to stay.
"Climate change is now a consideration in everything we do and we have the opportunity through this project to take a major step towards meeting the tough target we’ve set ourselves."
Barton ward councillor Dave Wilson, who backs moving away from Military Road and setting up a sustainable base, fears the plans are "inadequately detailed".
"The aspiration is good but the methodology isn't fleshed out," the Labour councillor said.
"When spending this amount of money you don't want to rush into things like this.
"I don't want to cause unnecessary hold-ups but you can't afford to get this wrong for environmental and financial reasons."
Councillors sitting on the policy and resources committee last night discussed whether to agree upon a £2 million budget for the planning phase.
Other sites potential sites researched by the council: